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CAQ government under pressure over doctors’ salaries

CAQ government under pressure over doctors’ salaries
WATCH: Quebec Premier François Legault campaigned on the promise to renegotiate lower salaries for medical specialists, but as Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports the government is still paying bonuses to some.

Renegotiating lower salaries for medical specialists was a major Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) election promise, so many are wondering when the government will begin to see those savings.

Premier François Legault repeated Thursday what he often said throughout the election campaign.

“We will have to re-open the agreement that was badly negotiated by the Liberal government,” he told reporters at the National Assembly.

READ MORE: Quebec plans to freeze salary increases for medical specialists

Legault promised to save Quebec taxpayers $1 billion by lowering the salaries of medical specialists, but more than a year after being elected, the government says it’s still working on it.

“We need money here and we have to get money where it is. And it’s now in the pockets of the specialists, and so they have to take this money,” said Quebec Solidaire MNA Sol Zanetti.

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“I’m wondering who’s in charge at the Ministry of Health,” said Liberal MNA André Fortin.

The Liberal opposition says Health Minister Danielle McCann has been dragging her feet on addressing even the most simple issues, like the so-called “white coat bonus” for anesthesiologists, an extra payment for visiting patients in isolation where the doctor has to put on a mask, gloves and a coat.

In the past year, this has cost the government $1 million.

READ MORE: Quebec doctor activists want better system, not more money

The Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ) said it agrees Quebec should get rid of this bonus for anesthesiologists, as it has for other kinds of specialists.

“There’s the federation of doctors essentially saying, ‘We got, we received from the Ministry of Health $1 million in the last year. We don’t want that money.’ And the minister of health has done nothing to take that back,” Fortin said.

McCann took exception to Fortin’s comments.

“Oh my God,” McCann said in response to Fortin. “This is so surprising that they say this because this prime (bonus) was there when they were in power. And the minister of health at that time, the deputy of La Pinière (Liberal Gaétan Barrette), never abolished it.”

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READ MORE: More than 200 Quebec doctors come out against proposed pay increases

But McCann said she will abolish it.

“We will, next week, have a meeting on this, the ministry and the FMSQ,” she said.

Legault said he wants a nine percent overall reduction in salaries. The federation is waiting for a study comparing doctors’ salaries across the country before negotiating.