Doctors in Quebec feel overpaid, demand less pay!

In an altruistic move, hundreds of physicians in Quebec are voicing opposition to a recent hike in their pay. They're saying they already earn more than enough - and they would prefer the money go to alleviate conditions for patients and overworked nurses.

More than 750 doctors, residents and medical students from the Canadian province signed an online petition that requests their recently-agreed raises be cancelled, noting that drastic cuts by the government left some citizens without access to necessary medical services.

The move follows an eight-year, retroactive deal struck in February between a federation of doctors and the government that would see about 20,000 of the province's medical specialists and general practitioners receive an annual salary increase ranging from about 1.4 per cent to 1.8 per cent a year.

That would mean that the province, which subsidises the bulk of doctors' salaries, would be liable for an additional C$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) by 2023.

According to the unions representing Quebec doctors, who pushed for the deal with the province, it is a fair agreement. But not all physicians agree  – over 750 doctors, both GPs and specialists, have signed a petition from Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public saying they do not want the rise, and they would rather have the extra money go towards patient care and services. The group represents doctors in the province who strongly support public access to healthcare.

"We, Quebec doctors who believe in a strong public system, oppose the recent salary increases negotiated by our medical federations," the petition, written in French, said. "These conditions are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions.

"We are asking that the salary increases granted to physicians be cancelled and that the resources of the system be better distributed for the good of the healthcare workers and to provide health services worthy to the people of Quebec," the letter posted on 26 February states.

The petition urged that the money that would have gone to fatten their pay checks instead be redistributed "to promote the heath of the population and meet the needs of patients without pushing workers to the end".

The petition comes after a nurses union in the province called on the government to address a shortage in their ranks by improving their working conditions.

The scenario was illustrated in a Facebook post by a teary-eyed Quebec nurse, which went viral. She wrote after a night shift at which she'd been the sole nurse to look after more than 70 patients: "I am broken by my profession, I am ashamed of the poverty of the care that I provide.''

In Canada, healthcare is public and run by the provinces, not the federal government, which means that salaries can vary quite a lot from province to province.

The average salary for a physician nationwide was $339,000, according to the most recent data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

In Ontario, Canada's largest province, the average specialist made C$403,500; in Quebec, they made C$367,000.

Family physicians in Quebec made C$255,000, while in Ontario they made C$311,000.

On Wednesday, an independent report commissioned by Quebec's Health and Welfare Commissioner found that physician salaries had doubled between 2005-15, while the hours doctors spent with patients declined.

Both the report and the nursing crisis have left many doctors in the province with a feeling of "shame" for their salaries, says Dr Isabelle Leblanc, president of Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public, which published the letter.

This sentiment has struck a chord with people across Canada and abroad.

The letter was described as "utterly Canadian" by Washington Post reporter Amy B Wang.

In Kenya, the doctors' letter was greeted with shock, especially since last year Kenyan doctors went on a three-month strike for higher wages.

"It is almost unheard of that a worker would complain of a high salary from their employer," wrote an article in the Kenya paper The Standard.