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How to Get a Family Doctor in Montreal

April 22, 2024 • read

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How to Get a Family Doctor in Montreal

We believe primary care is foundational for good health and that every Canadian should have access to it. Unfortunately, ongoing doctor shortages are contributing to an imbalance in healthcare access across the country. The situation is especially difficult in Montreal where hundreds of thousands of residents are without a family doctor right now. 

On top of that, the provincial health system is in the process of restructuring. That’s left many feeling understandably confused about how to get a family doctor in Quebec.

If you’re one of many Montrealers looking for a new physician, we’re here to support you through the process. Here are some tried and true strategies for how to get a family doctor in Montreal, and where you can access care while you wait.

Finding a family doctor in Montreal

Montreal is an incredible city with lots to offer. However, if you don’t have a family doctor, it can be hard to feel at home here. Thankfully, resources are available to help you with your search. Combining these with some time and a little effort will put you on the path to finding a new provider.

The first step to finding a new doctor in Montreal is to put your name on the provincial registry The Quebec Family Doctor Finder otherwise known as the GAMF. This service connects provincial residents who are looking for a family doctor with practitioners who are accepting new patients. And, despite its name, its providers include both nurse practitioners and doctors.

Once you’re on the GAMF waitlist, there are a few different ways of continuing your provider search.

Depending on where you live, you may receive a letter from RAMQ (the provincial health system) letting you know that you’ve been placed with a clinic network. While you won’t have a personal physician within this network, belonging to the group allows you to access in-person appointments while remaining on the provincial waitlist.

The providers in the clinic network will have access to your medical file. However, you’ll likely see a different doctor at each appointment based on who’s available. Depending on your concern, this may sometimes include a different type of practitioner altogether, such as a nurse or social worker.

Once you’ve been placed with one of these networks you’re welcome to ask any of the doctors or nurse practitioners you see if they’re accepting new patients.

If you don’t find a new practitioner this way or if you’re not part of a clinic network, your local hospital may be able to help instead. Family doctors in Quebec must spend a certain number of hours each week seeing patients in public institutions. As a result, many end up working ER shifts, giving hospitals insight into who is currently taking on new patients.

Other avenues worth exploring include nearby walk-in clinics. These clinics are often affiliated with teaching hospitals or family medicine practices. As a result, the doctor you see at one may have availability in their practice. If not, it’s still worth asking the clinic if they have any leads as they may know other providers currently rostering patients.

How to register with a family doctor in Montreal

Whether you’re assigned a new doctor by the province or find one on your own, registering with your new provider is relatively straightforward.

Once you’ve found a new doctor, they’ll provide you with a registration form to complete. Doing this will both roster you with their practice and remove your name from the “The Quebec Family Doctor Finder” registry.

If you don’t have a family doctor yet, keep the following requirements in mind to make sure your application to the provincial registry is evaluated properly.

Within “The Quebec Family Doctor Finder” registry, priority is given to those on the list who are most in need. As a result, it’s crucial that your application includes all of your health information. This means detailing any chronic illnesses or mental health diagnoses, but it also extends to other conditions that increase your medical priority, such as pregnancy.

As your health changes over time, it’s important that you update your file to reflect this. Depending on the information you add, it may increase your priority.

In addition, make sure that your contact details stay up to date. If you’re matched with a primary care provider but can’t be reached, your file may be suspended, causing you to lose your spot.

How do I make an appointment with a doctor in Quebec?

If you’re in QC and don’t have a family doctor, you have a few options for accessing care.

One you’re likely already familiar with is your local walk-in clinic. These clinics are a great resource for when only a hands-on examination will do. However, their name is a bit of a misnomer. Rather than walking in to find all the day’s appointment slots gone, your best bet is to make an appointment online — ideally the night before. 

Alternatively, you can call 8-1-1 to connect with a service navigator. Based on your concern, they’ll be able to direct you to the best alternative, whether that’s a super clinic or another community resource. This is also the contact number for making appointments if you’ve received a letter from RAMQ indicating that you’re under the care of a clinic network.

Given the sheer number of Montrealers looking for care, however, both of these options will likely come with a wait. Thankfully, this is where virtual care can make a big difference.

Through our platform, you can visit virtually with a Canadian-licensed general practitioner in Quebec between 6 am and 11 pm. You can connect via your phone, tablet, or computer for speedy access wherever you are.

As an added bonus, we also offer specialist appointments in Quebec, no referral necessary.

How long does it take to get a family doctor in Quebec?

While it’s unclear exactly what family doctor waitlists look like today, past data paint a grim picture. According to the Globe and Mail, the average wait for a family doctor in Montreal as of February 2021 was a whopping 862 days.

What about the rest of the province? If you’re trying to gauge how long applying for a family doctor in Quebec takes, the answer is that things are better off-island, but not always by much. For example, in the Gaspesie — the region with the shortest wait — it took residents an average of 245 days to secure a new family physician. In the middle of the pack, the wait in the South Shore rang in at 580 days, or more than 18 months.

It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re in the midst of searching for a new family physician. The long wait times and confusing health system updates may only add to the general sense of anxiety surrounding the process.

However, no matter how you’re feeling, know that you have options. If you’re unsure, calling 8-1-1 can help to provide the direction you need. And, as always, our doctors and primary care providers are here for you when you need care. Reach out today to speak to a doctor and start feeling better, faster.

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