, , , , ,

Ozias Leduc, Église de Saint-Hilaire, détail (Encyclopédie de l’Agora)

« L’art enseigne, renseigne. Il révèle l’âme. Nul doute qu’il a le pouvoir d’ordonner en un cosmos le chaos de l’inconscient. D’un désordre, d’une souffrance et d’un déséquilibre, il conduit à la stabilité, à l’harmonie et à la joie. »
(Ozias Leduc, tiré d’une lettre à Paul-Émile Borduas, 1943)

[Art teaches, informs. It reveals the soul. It has, no doubt, the power of ordering into a cosmos the chaos of the unconscious. From disorder, pain, and imbalance, it leads to stability, harmony and joy.]

In a very recent post, entitled Comforting Thoughts, I inserted a link to an article published by the BBC. I am quoting, first, a paragraph from my post, and, second, the article published by the BBC. Nurses are overworked and there are families who do not, or cannot, for lack of money, or time, participate in the care given a mother, a father, a brother, and other members of their family.

In Comforting Thoughts, I wrote that

“[w]e stayed with him [my brother] the entire afternoon and the little group returned to the hospital in the evening. I stayed home. I don’t want to know how much we paid in parking fees, but if members of his family did not help my brother, he would require the services of at least one professional twenty-four hours a day. A nurse came in to give him morphine and she obviously kept an eye on us, but he wasn’t alone.”

Researching Health Care, I found this article published by the BBC (UK). Home news from abroad. Doctors in Quebec earn approximately three times, perhaps more, the salary of a University teacher in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and they enjoy a lifestyle most of us can only dream of.

When I moved to Quebec, I could not find a doctor. I phoned and phoned and phoned. I was put on several waiting lists, to no avail. The doctors whose office I called always had “more patients than he or she could handle.” I ended up contacting the University of Sherbrooke’s Medical School. A secretary made an appointment for me at a CLSC, Fr / En, a public clinic. I would see an intern. No problem! My intern was a fine doctor and he was supervised. When his internship was over, he asked his supervisor to take me as a patient.

And I am not the only person facing this problem. Last week, I met a young woman who had waited 4 years to find a doctor and was sitting in the waiting area of a public clinic, or a CLSC (Centre local de services communautaires). She would see an intern. I reassured her. She had come to the right place.

An Aristocracy

As I wrote in my post, doctors were becoming an aristocracy. They work from 9 to 5 (9 to 17 hours) or less, and they may be on call. Some doctors ask that medicine not be discussed in their presence outside working hours: it would be too stressful. They need their rest and a private life.

Of course, but should people go untreated and nurses be so burdened that patient care is neglected. Nurses are leaving their chosen profession.


Ozias Leduc (Google)

Let us now go to the BBC.

Home News from Abroad: the BBC (UK)


“Doctors from the Canadian province of Quebec have shocked the world by turning down a pay rise.

Why would anyone turn down a pay rise?

For doctors from Quebec, the answer is simple: patient care.

An eight-year, retroactive deal struck in February would see about 20,000 of the province’s medical specialists and general practitioners receive an annual salary increase ranging from about 1.4% to 1.8% each year [bold characters are mine].

That would mean that the province, which subsidises the bulk of doctors’ salaries, would be on the hook for an additional C$1.5bn ($1.2bn, £840m) by 2023.

It is a fair agreement, according to the unions representing Quebec doctors, who pushed for the deal with the province.

But not all physicians are on board – more than 700 physicians, both GPs and specialists, have signed a petition from Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public [Quebec Doctors for the Public System] saying they do not want the rise, and they would rather have the extra money go to patient care and services. The group represents doctors in the province who strongly support public access to healthcare.


Their cry for fairer distribution of government funding comes at a time when the healthcare system is under intense scrutiny.

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.

Meanwhile, the province’s nurses are fighting for better working conditions and salaries. A picture of a bleary-eyed nurse posted on Facebook went viral and was shared more than 50,000 times in January.

“I’m so stressed that I have back troubles, enough to keep me from sleeping. I don’t want to go to work because I dread the workload that awaits me,” wrote Émilie Ricard, who said she alone was in charge of caring for 70 patients in one shift. “I come home and I’m crying with fatigue.”

We, Quebec doctors…

“We, Quebec doctors, 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 [of] the people of Quebec,” read 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.

At home, the Quebec doctors have been praised by officials, but some of their colleagues have kept mum.

“If they feel they are overpaid, they can leave the money on the table. I guarantee you I can make good use of it,” said the province’s health minister Gaétan Barrette.

Quebec’s physician unions have not commented publicly about the call for less than the agreed-upon pay rise.

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 by population, the average specialist made C$403,500; in Quebec, they made C$367,000.

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

The Quebec doctors’ rebuff of a pay rise has put them at odds with many of their colleagues in other provinces.

The Ontario Medical Association has been fighting for higher wages with the province for years.

The province has cut fees twice in three years and the association still has not negotiated a contract with the province.”

End of quotation.


Why should medical doctors be paid three to four times a university teacher’s salary. I suspect that many doctors, those who are doctors mostly for the money, were disgruntled when the Médecins Québécois Pour le Régime Public refused a rise in salary. They may have been motivated to vote Dr Couillard out of office. As for nurses who had to look after 70 patients, they may have believed that the premier was at fault. Not quite!

In Quebec, future doctors enter Medical School after grade 11 + 2 years in a CEGEP  (General and Vocational College). They can start earning money earlier than doctors living elsewhere. They are also protected by powerful syndicates. But so few doctors are available that when one retires, his or her patients are devastated. Yet, between 2005-15, a physician’s salary doubled while nurses looked after 70 patients.

What about the wages of an overworked nurse, old-age pensions, and disability benefits? A nurse’s salary does not double in ten years. As for disability benefits, they never go up. The amount is 60% of the salary one earns the last year one works. After 15 years, one’s financial security is endangered. At age 73, now 74, I had to take a mortgage to buy a one-bedroom apartment. But I’m not complaining.


I thank the doctors, the Médecins québécois pour le Régime public, who turned down a rise in salary and I am glad that the working conditions of nurses have been brought to the attention of the world.

Taking care of Jean-Pierre was a full-time occupation, and the nurse assigned to him was looking after other patients. She was a fine nurse, but she was probably relieved to see that members of Jean-Pierre’s family were taking care of him. She did not want to neglect a patient. She told us about the little beds available to family and friends who preferred not to leave a dying relative. We were happy to learn that there were little beds for the family.

Jean-Pierre died graciously. He thanked the staff for the fine care he had received. He thanked the priest who administered the Last Rites and he told all of us that he had simply reached his expiry date: sa date d’expiration, which is a date all of us have to face.


Love to everyone 💕

Tomás Luis de Victoria

O Magnum Mysterium -The Sixteen Christophers


Judith, Ozias Leduc, c 1914 (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec)

© Micheline Walker
16 October 2018