Public Coverage of Ultrasounds : Boundaries Are Needed to Avoid a Repeat of Past Errors

Montreal, December 1, 2016 – "The FMSQ shares the government's aim to improve access to ultrasound examinations and to widen the offer of services provided to Quebec patients by medical radiologists specializing in diagnostic ultrasounds." This was how Dr Diane Francœur, President of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ), opened her remarks in a press briefing held in association with the President of the Association des radiologistes du Québec (ARQ), Dr Vincent Oliva.

In this vein, Dr Francœur reiterated the FMSQ's commitment to dedicate an amount possibly reaching $30 million, to be taken directly from medical specialists' overall budget, in order to improve access to these services.

However, the FMSQ and the ARQ deplore the Minister's unilateral approach. They worry that his failure to listen, as well as the improvised nature and careless work on this issue, will result in significant uncertainty regarding the maintenance of access to these services and the quality of care for the population of Québec. In the absence of clear boundaries and of adequate planning, as was the case when the Assisted Reproduction Program was implemented, the objective of this new insured service could fail to give results.

"We believe that the public coverage of these examinations will generate significant expectations, if only for the provision of musculoskeletal ultrasounds. The demand for all kinds of ultrasounds is already exploding and it will increase exponentially with population ageing," explained the President of the Federation. "Breast and abdominal-pelvic ultrasounds will have to be prioritized in the offer of services. Extending the service to all types of ultrasound examinations will exert undue pressure on the capacity to provide quality services that are medically required within prescribed delays," she added.

"In line with the ARQ' proposals, the Federation is of the opinion that the Minister must first promote calling upon and using resources in hospital centres in order to perform the ultrasound examinations that will eventually be covered by the public health insurance plan. The question of the pertinence of these examinations must be at the forefront of our concerns and of the decisions we need to make. Otherwise, no one will win, and the patients will not be better served," reiterated Dr Francœur.

The Minister must hold discussions with the experts in the field in order to design and implement a realistic solution before the provisions of this regulation come into effect. Until then, the FMSQ and the ARQ are asking the government to delay publication and implementation of this regulation modifying the Regulation respecting the application of the Health Insurance Act regarding ultrasonography.

"Optimizing resources in public institutions, as well as the quality of the medical act and appropriate care for patients must take precedence over electoral promises," concluded Dr Francœur.

The Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec represents more than 10,000 medical specialists certified in one of 59 recognized medical specialties.