Quebec government statistics show that proportionately fewer Laval residents are registered with a family doctor than any other region of Quebec except Montreal—and that Montreal is catching up so rapidly that it could soon push Laval into last place in the province.
According to the Quebec Statistics Institute, just 61.1 per cent of Laval residents had a family doctor in 2015.
That’s up from 17.5 per cent from barely over half (52 per cent) Laval’s population in 2011 but—with nowhere to go but up—the province’s push to provide family doctors has proved far more successful in Montreal. The portion of the Montreal population with family doctors jumped nearly 29 per cent to 50.9 per cent in 2015, up from an abysmal 39.5 per cent in 2011.
“Historically, Laval is one of the regions…that’s short of family doctors,” Laval health care authority spokeswoman Paula Beaudoin told The Suburban.
“There’s a shortage of about 70 family doctors,” she explained in an electronic mail reply to the newspaper’s query. “That represents about 17 per cent of the [medical] staff.”
Beaudoin observed that Laval’s short-staffed family doctors also carry a heavier load than merely caring for the city’s own residents.
“[Some] 30 per cent of the patients that Laval family doctors currently follow are not Laval residents,” she said.
Remote regions rewarded
The figures also show that the Health Ministry’s full-court press to provide health care in the province’s remote regions has paid dividends there.
Thinly populated Saguenay-Lac St. Jean tops the chart at 82.7 per cent, followed closely by Chaudière-Appalaches at 82.3 per cent.
Even Quebec’s far north fared much better. Its family doctor registration rate jumped 48 per cent from 51.6 per cent in 2011 to 76 per cent in 2015.
According to McGill professor Jon Bradley, the distortion in favour of remote regions is influenced by political factors.
“Quebec politicians reserve special treatment for those who live in so-called remote areas,” he wrote in a letter to The Suburban, earlier this year.
That’s because Quebec crams two-thirds more citizens into its urban ridings than those in the hinterland. Urban ridings can contain 60,484 voters, while rural ridings need just 36,290 eligible souls to get the same representation in the provincial legislature.
The sex factor
The statistics (see chart) also showed that Laval women are much more likely to be registered with a family doctor than the city’s men.
“In regions remote from major [population] centres…the registration rate for men and women tend to approach equality,” the report said. “Conversely, the capital region, Laval, Montreal and the Laurentians displayed the greatest disparity.”