A year prior, the FMOQ called for the urgent adoption of a national policy to promote family medicine. “Family physicians are an endangered species,” says Marie-Dominique Beaulieu, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Family Medicine and researcher at the CHUM Research Centre. Beaulieu and seven colleagues conducted a study on the practice of family medicine in Canada, France and Belgium, which was published in the August issue of Canadian Family Physician.
The assessment was the same in the three countries studied. “All respondents strongly believed that their profession was undervalued by the faculty of medicine in which they were trained,” says Beaulieu. “It is perceived that their career choice isn’t as prestigious, isn’t at the cutting-edge of medical knowledge, and is sometimes outright belittled.”
In France and Belgium, family medicine wasn’t an option until recently when medical faculties began offering specific courses in the discipline. On both sides of the Atlantic, attempts have been made to add luster to the discipline. The Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine is currently revising its undergraduate curriculum with this specific objective in mind.
“In Canada, we are ahead of France, Belgium and the United States, yet lagging behind England, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries that have greatly promoted family medicine,” says Beaulieu.
The investigation has also found differences in the profession between Europe and Canada. In France and Belgium, family physicians make a lot more house calls and barely do any obstetrics. Family doctors often work alone, rarely in hospitals and often worry about in meeting the availability their patients require.
In Canada and Quebec, family physicians increasingly practice as part of physician groups, which allows for better time management, and spend about 50 percent of their working hours in hospital.
The divide between primary care and specialized medicine, in day-to-day practice, is becoming an important cause for concern. It has been proven to not only contribute to the declining appeal of a career in primary care but also to jeopardize patient safety and quality of care. Leaders in medical education, according to Beaulieu, must become advocates of primary care.
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