March 8 (UPI) -- More than 500 doctors and medical students in Quebec are protesting against a raise in their salary so that more nurses and support staff can be hired.
Doctors, who make an average salary of about $400,000 (Canadian) per year in Quebec, are scheduled to get a 1.4 percent raise each year from the government-run health program through 2023. But doctors from the group Médecins Québécois pour la Régime Public said in an open letter that they'd rather see that money go towards hiring more nurses to improve the overall healthcare experience for patients.
"We, Quebec doctors, 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 the health care workers and to provide health services worthy to the people of Quebec," the letter states.
It continues: "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."
But Quebec's health minister, Gaétan Barrette, said the pay increase deal has already been made and he has no plans to renegotiate.
"If they feel they are overpaid, they can leave the money on the table. I guarantee you I can make good use of it," Barrette said, according to the CBC.
Quebec's nursing plight has been a much talked-about topic in Canada for months as nurses say that government cuts have worsened their work conditions, as well as patients' experience due to lower nurse to patient ratios.
And while Quebec doctors make more money on average than doctors in other provinces, nurses make less -- averaging about $23 per hour to start, compared to $31 in Ontario and $36 in Alberta, according to the Montreal Gazette.
"They're always asking us to reorganize, to do more with less," Nancy Bedard, head of the Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec, said last month. "We've hit a wall, a level where we say we can't go further."