As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 700 physicians, residents and medical students from the Canadian province had signed an online petition asking for their pay raises to be canceled. A group named Medecins Quebecois Pour le Regime (MQRP), which represents Quebec doctors and advocates for public health, started the petition Feb. 25.
“We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations,” the petition reads in French.
The physicians group said it could not in good conscience accept pay raises when working conditions remained difficult for others in their profession – including nurses and clerks – and while patients “live with the lack of access to required services because of drastic cuts in recent years.”
A nurses union in Quebec has in recent months pushed the government to address a nursing shortage, seeking a law that would cap the number of patients a nurse could see. The union said its members were increasingly being overworked, and nurses across the province have held several sit-ins in recent months to push for better working conditions.
In January, the situation was encapsulated in a viral Facebook post by a nurse in Quebec named Emilie Ricard, who posted a photo of herself, teary-eyed, after what she said had been an exhausting night shift. Ricard said she had been the only nurse to care for more than 70 patients on her floor; she was so stressed that she had cramps that prevented her from sleeping, she added.
“This is the face of nursing,” Ricard wrote, criticizing Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, who had deemed recent health-care system changes a success.
“I don’t know where you’re going to get your information, but it’s not in the reality of nursing,” the nurse wrote. She later added: “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.”
Ricard’s post has since been shared more than 55,000 times.
“There’s always money for doctors, she says, but what about the others who take care of patients?” said Nancy Bedard, president of Quebec’s nurses union, according to Global