Amid cuts to the health care system and complaints about the working conditions for nurses, hundreds of doctors in Quebec have signed a petition forgoing their pay raises.
The raises were negotiated between the government and Quebec's federation of medical specialists and other groups in February. With an average annual salary of $403,537, many medical specialists said "no thanks" to the decided 1.4 percent pay increase arranged on their behalf.
In an online petition, over 700 physicians advocated for the redistribution of their would-be raises to other areas, particularly in an effort to lower medical costs for patients and improve conditions for other medical professionals.
"We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations," the petition reads, saying that patients "live with the lack of access to required services because of drastic cuts in recent years."
Quebec has faced a critical nursing shortage of late, which also contributed to the doctors' petition being circulated. "There's always money for the doctors," said Nancy Bedard, president of Quebec's nurses' union, "but what about the others who take care of patients?"
Bedard continued, "My people are fed up. Patients don't have the care they need."
Trying to address the nursing shortage has been a nightmare according to other nurse advocates. "The nurses don't apply because they know it's a ticket to burnout," said nursing union leader Veronique Hivon. Many are working double shifts several days in a row to try and keep up.
The plight of one particular nurse went viral in January, when she took to social media blasting Quebec's nurse-to-patient ratios and the government's handling of the crisis. Emilie Ricard was venting after caring solely for more than 70 patients in a shift, saying "I am broken by my profession. I am ashamed of the poverty of the care that I provide as far as possible. My health system is sick and dying."
Gaetan Barrette, Quebec's health minister, said the doctors would just be leaving money on the table. But Barrette insisted it would take a majority of physicians to ask for the raises to be forgone: "That's something I would accept if they would accept among themselves. But the doctors who are in that position are still the small minority."