Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé is no longer considering forcing all future medical specialists to practice in the regions, but is now only targeting foreign students training in Quebec.
A provision in Bill 15, which aims to make the health network more efficient, could allow Dubé to require students from outside the province to practice in the regions for a period of four years from the date they obtain their license.
The Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec (FMRQ) strongly opposed the idea of forcing up to 25% of residents to work in the regions, calling the provisions in Article 392 of the bill “illegal,” “discriminatory,” and “morally dubious.” The FMRQ also denounced the government’s intention of imposing the conditions in advance to people who are still several years away from occupying their functions.
Dubé appears to have listened to the criticisms of the FMRQ, as he included a proposal for a change among his package of 150 amendments tabled last week.
However, Article 393 remains, which allows the government to retain the power to “require students from outside Quebec to sign, before the start of their training, an undertaking accompanied by a penalty clause, where applicable, to practice for a maximum period of four years in the region or for the establishment determined by the minister” if they wish to pursue their career in Quebec.
Although these students are also de facto members of the FMRQ when they begin their residency, the federation said in a statement that they were satisfied with the modifications proposed by Dubé.
In an interview, FMRQ president Dr. Cédric Lacombe reiterated his opposition to any form of discrimination, but said he accepts a form of compromise that solves the problem “for a majority of the members.”
The FMRQ believes that the positions of medical specialists are already subject to quotas across Quebec and are distributed according to the planning of medical staff. This is a five-year plan developed collaboratively by the ministry and physician associations.
For the FMRQ, this planning and the strict regulatory framework that accompanies it are more than enough to meet the needs of the regions without having to haggle over places in residence with the students.