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“Unprecedented” attack on physician autonomy draws CMA response

An “unprecedented attack on the professional autonomy of physicians” has prompted the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to take historic action.

For the first time, the CMA has submitted a brief to Quebec’s National Assembly – in conjunction with the Quebec Medical Association (QMA) – to protest Bill 20, which was introduced by the Quebec government as draft legislation last fall.

The proposed legislation would place quotas on the number of patients that must be seen by family physicians and specialists, as well as mandating that physicians perform other services (such as providing in-hospital care) or face penalties.

QMA President Laurent Marcoux and Pierre Harvey, French spokesperson for the Canadian Medical Association and a member of the CMA Board of Directors, recently appeared before the committee conducting public hearings into the proposed legislation. The controversial legislation has been accompanied by negative comments from the Quebec health minister concerning the productivity of physicians in the province.

The brief from the CMA and QMA applauds the intent – to improve access to health care in the province – but criticizes the approach taken by the Quebec government and the current lack of detail around specific legislation to support the bill.

“Our brief says a lot about how concerned we are about Bill 20,” says CMA President Chris Simpson.

“The bill represents an attack on the professional autonomy of physicians unlike any we have seen before in the history of organized medicine in Canada. The CMA has to join the QMA in speaking out about this because of the consequences this bill could have on the entire medical profession.”

Speaking specifically to the plans to impose quotas on Quebec physicians, the brief states this could have numerous adverse effects by encouraging physicians to “choose quantity of care over quality, resulting in incomplete examinations, increased use of diagnostic tests and … overdiagnosis.”

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