Doctors want public coverage extended to all medical imaging in Quebec

MONTREAL, QC, April 10, 2013 - Quebec’s doctors and medical students are asking the government to extend public coverage to include all medical imaging, an essential element in patient care.

Noting that a number of tests (ultrasounds, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging) are paid for by patients when they are conducted outside the hospital, they are asking for these exceptions to the Health Insurance Act to be removed in order to improve patient access and the operation of the health system. They also stress that covering ultrasounds is now possible because the costs and conditions have already been well defined.

“First, it’s a matter of fairness. Patients need to have access to tests based on their health needs and not on their financial means. The exception for outside hospital imaging therefore has no justification,” said Dr. Alain Vadeboncoeur, president of Médecins québécois pour le régime public (MQRP), the organization behind this stance. “Quebec’s situation is unique in Canada. Better integration of Quebec’s many radiologists, technologists, and equipment will reduce wait times, but the government seems to be hesitating, so we have to see to it,” he stated.

Dr. Ruth Vander Stelt, president of the Québec Medical Association (QMA), had this to say: “Imaging tests are medically necessary. Whether they are provided in public institutions or independent clinics, the patient should not have to cover the costs.” She further argued that with “better coordination of imaging facilities in hospitals or clinics, the network will be able to provide a wider range of services by reducing overall costs and improving the appropriateness of each test. At the end of the day, the public will benefit.”

Dr. Dominique Deschênes, president of the Québec College of Family Physicians (CQMF), backed MQRP’s position: “The Québec College of Family Physicians supports this approach, which will promote equitable access to imaging for all patients and facilitate diagnostic procedures using imaging. This will enable family physicians to make their diagnoses more efficiently and meet people’s needs as quickly as possible. Furthermore, fewer patients will be referred to emergency for an ultrasound or treatment of complications related to the delays.”

Valérie Martel, president of Fédération médicale étudiante du Québec (FMEQ), affirmed that all Quebec medical students support this stance. “We think it is crucial that, in the health system where we will soon be caring for patients, it be as easy for a doctor to prescribe an imaging test as it is for a patient to undergo one, regardless of whether the test is conducted in a clinic or a hospital. Extending public coverage to all imaging will help to achieve these two objectives.”

Dr. Alain Vadeboncoeur concluded by saying this: “We believe that extending public coverage to all imaging is not only necessary but also easily achievable and relatively inexpensive, especially given its positive impacts on the health system.”

Médecins québécois pour le régime public is made up of some 500 doctors, residents, and medical students dedicated to protecting and improving our public health system. Its approach is based on the realities of medical practice, analysis of scientific data and the economics of health systems, and interdisciplinary dialogue.

The Québec Medical Association comprises some 10,000 doctors, residents, and medical students. Its mission is to bring together members of the Quebec medical community in a context that promotes reflection and action in order to improve the conditions for practicing medicine as well as the health of Quebecers.

The Québec College of Family Physicians, a provincial chapter of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, has more than 3,500 members who are mostly family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students in Quebec. The college endeavors to improve Quebecers’ health and the quality of primary care by working to develop, showcase, and promote excellence in family medicine.

Fédération médicale étudiante du Québec comprises more than 3,700 doctoral students (MD) from four faculties of medicine in Quebec. Its mission is to promote and protect the students’ collective interests relating to pedagogical, political, and social matters and to foster communication and cooperation between member associations and their members.

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Mélissa Bourgoin
Professional Affairs Coordinator
Québec Medical Association