Doctors in Canada protest their own pay raises

Quebec's doctors to get $700 million raise

(CNN) - What would you do if you and your coworkers were getting raises totaling $700 million? If you're like a group of doctors in Canada, you'd fight it.

Some general practitioners and medical specialists in Quebec have signed a petition saying they don't want the hundreds of millions in raises they got after negotiations with the provincial government last month.

Instead, they say the money should be redistributed -- to fund more nurses and other health-care professions, and to make care more affordable for their patients.

"These increases are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions, while our patients live with the lack of access to required services because of the drastic cuts in recent years," reads the petition from the group Médecins Québécois pour la Régime Public (or MQRP).

"The only thing that seems to be immune to the cuts is our (salaries)."

So far, more than 700 physicians, general practitioners, specialists, residents and medical students have signed the petition, which has been up since February 25.

'Leave the money on the table'

The deal reached with the government would give Quebec's 10,000 doctors a 1.4% pay hike, taking their total annual salaries from $4.7 billion to $5.4 billion, according to CNN partner CBC.

A physician in Canada is paid, on average, $260,000 by the health ministry.

Quebec's health minister said it's OK with him if the doctors don't want the money.

"That's something that I would accept if they would accept among themselves," Minister Gaetan Barrette told CNN. "But the doctors who are in that position are still the small minority."

Barrette said the ministry can't rescind the raises unless the majority of doctors vote for that to happen.

"It's like a union itself in terms of functioning," he said. "In terms of getting compensation, they are grouped in a larger body to negotiate with the government."

Part of what's driving this is the desperate situation Quebec's nurses say they find themselves in. They complain of being overworked and underpaid.

One nurse, Emilie Ricard, took to social media with her complaints back in January, after she said Barrette was quoted as saying that "health system reform is a success."

Ricard said she was exhausted after working a shift where she had to take care of more than 70 patients by herself.

"I am broken by my profession," Ricard writes in her post, which has a picture of her with tears in her eyes and giving a sarcastic thumbs up. "I am ashamed of the poverty of the care that I provide as far as possible. My health system is sick and dying."

Barrette told CBC he's committed to improving the working conditions for nurses.

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