Doctor shortage

Laval second-worst region in Quebec

By Robert Frank

With 90 family physicians for every 100,000 residents, only the Lanaudière region of Quebec has a sparser supply of family doctors than Laval.

According to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (, the island city fares a bit better in terms of specialist physicians.

Thanks to the Cité de la santé superhospital, Laval has 71 specialists for every 100,000 residents—though that still places Laval in the bottom half of the pack, coming in tenth place among Quebec’s 18 medical regions. Three of them—Montreal, Gatineau and the Eastern Townships—have more than double the number of specialists as a proportion of the population.

Worse, previous CIHI studies show that those figures have barely budged from two years earlier, when the corresponding figure for family physicians stood at 89 and specialists at 69.

“Whenever politicians ask the public what are the main issues, people tell them that they want access to health care, whether in terms of family practitioners or wait time for specialists,” CIHI’s Yvonne Rosehart told The Suburban in an interview.

“That’s why it’s so important to provide an indicator that shows how many doctors there are in each region,” said the physician-database program leader.

“Laval doctors also tend to be older than the Quebec average,” she noted. “Is looking at ways to recruit young doctors part of the strategy for Laval?”

Foreign-trained doctors shunned

The latest statistics also show that Montreal’s share of family physicians is 36 per cent higher than Laval’s.

Montreal’s share of foreign-trained family doctors, coincidentally, is 36 per cent higher than Laval’s.

“Quebec has, by a significant margin, the lowest share of foreign-trained doctors of all the provinces, at about 11 per cent,” Rosehart explained. “In the rest of Canada, that share is about a quarter.”

“In many parts of Canada, we are seeing policies aimed at guiding [foreign-trained] doctors through the process, and there are a lot of rural incentive programs that target foreign-trained physicians.”

“While a quarter of Quebecers have to cope without a family doctor, about 100 perfectly qualified foreign-trained doctors can’t practice, because they don’t have enough money to complete the exams,” Dr. Comlan Amouzou of Médicins d’ailleurs, told The Suburban in an interview. 

“Many of them are on welfare,” added the head of the advocacy and support group for foreign-educated doctors, “and have to rely on food banks to feed their families.”

Last year, St. Mary’s Hospital in Côte des Neiges introduced a program to help integrate them. However, Dr. Amouzou believes that these initiatives, while welcome, are too small to train more than a tiny fraction of the doctors whose much-needed skills are currently lying fallow.

He contrasted Quebec’s experience with other OECD countries, particularly the United States, “which has the highest proportion of immigrant doctors in the world.”

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