March 12, 2018

'Pay us less money,' 600+ Canadian doctors demand. (Yes, you read that right.)

Daily Briefing

    Hundreds of Canadian doctors and medical students have signed a petition to protest their planned pay raises, saying the money should instead go toward improving working conditions and helping patients.

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    Why the doctors are opposing pay increases

    According to the Washington Post, the "utterly Canadian" petition was started by a group called Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public (MQRP), a group of Quebecois doctors and public health advocates, in response to a budget provision that would give doctors in Quebec a significant raise without a comparable raise for nursing staff. More than 650 doctors and nearly 200 medical students have signed the petition. 

    "We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations," the petition reads, according to a translation published in the Post from the original French. "We … are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be canceled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of health care workers and to provide health services worthy of the people of Quebec."

    MQRP wrote that the doctors felt that they couldn't accept pay raises while patients "live with the lack of access to required services because of drastic cuts in recent years."

    The petition added, "The only thing that seems to be immune to the (health care system) cuts is our salaries. … We believe that there is a way to redistribute the resources of the Quebec health system to promote the health of the population and meet the needs of patients without pushing workers to the end."

    According to a report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in September 2017, Canadian physicians made around $339,000 Canadian dollars a year on average (around $261,060 U.S. dollars) in 2015-16. The Quebec budget is slated to give specialists a raise of 11.2% over eight years.

    Nurses in Quebec face shortages, heavy workload

    The doctors' protest comes amid complaints from non-physician providers in Quebec about stagnant pay and a nursing shortage, the Post reports.

    The Quebec nurses' union, for instance, has argued that nurses are consistently overworked and recently pushed for the government to cap the number of patients a nurse can see, according to the Post.

    In January, one Quebecois nurse posted a Facebook photo of herself after what she said was an exhausting night shift in which she cared for more than 70 patients. "I am broken by my profession," she wrote in French, according to a translation published in the Post. "My health system is sick and dying."

    What comes next

    The Quebec health minister, Gaétan Barrette, told the Toronto Star that the difficult working conditions facing nurses "has to get our total attention," saying that "we have the money to address that."

    As for the doctors' petition, Barrette said, "If they feel they are overpaid, they can leave the money on the table," adding, "I guarantee you I can make good use of it" (Wang, Washington Post, 3/7; Rege, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/7; Meyer, Fortune, 3/8).

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