Publications Area deprivation and attachment to a general practitioner through centralized waiting lists: a cross-sectional study in Quebec, Canada

Une publication en open access soutenue par le RRSPQ. Félicitations aux auteurs, dont plusieurs sont membres du Réseau.

Un article by Smithman MA, Brousselle A, Touati N, Boivin A, Nour K, Dubois CA, Loignon C, Berbiche D, Breton M. International Journal for Equity in Health 2018, 17:176



Access to primary healthcare is an important social determinant of health and having a regular general practitioner (GP) has been shown to improve access. In Canada, socio-economically disadvantaged patients are more likely to be unattached (i.e. not have a regular GP). In the province of Quebec, where over 30% of the population is unattached, centralized waiting lists were implemented to help patients find a GP. Our objectives were to examine the association between social and material deprivation and 1) likelihood of attachment, and 2) wait time for attachment to a GP through centralized waiting lists.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in five local health networks in Quebec, Canada, using clinical administrative data of patients attached to a GP between June 2013 and May 2015 (n = 24, 958 patients) and patients remaining on the waiting list as of May 2015 (n = 49, 901), using clinical administrative data. Social and material area deprivation indexes were used as proxies for patients' socio-economic status. Multiple regressions were carried out to assess the association between deprivation indexes and 1) likelihood of attachment to a GP and 2) wait time for attachment. Analyses controlled for sex, age, local health network and variables related to health needs.


Patients from materially medium, disadvantaged and very disadvantaged areas were underrepresented on the centralized waiting lists, while patients from socially disadvantaged and very disadvantaged areas were overrepresented. Patients from very materially advantaged and advantaged areas were less likely to be attached to a GP than patients from very disadvantaged areas. With the exception of patients from socially disadvantaged areas, all other categories of social deprivation were more likely to be attached to a GP compared to patients from very disadvantaged areas. We found a pro-rich gradient in wait time for attachment to a GP, with patients from more materially advantaged areas waiting less than those from disadvantaged areas.


Our findings suggest that there are socio-economic inequities in attachment to a GP through centralized waiting lists. Policy makers should take these findings into consideration to adjust centralized waiting list processes to avoid further exacerbation of health inequities.


Canada; Cross-sectional; Health services accessibility; Healthy equity; Physicians, family; Physicians, primary care; Primary health care; Quebec; Socioeconomic factors; Waiting lists