Extra medical fees could be rolled into doctors' salaries

The Couillard government wants to end extra medical fees patients sometimes have to pay at doctors' offices.

Deal would have to be made in the context of contract negotiations with Quebec's doctors

Diane Francoeur, president of the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists, says her group suggested the very solution the Quebec government is proposing. (CBC)

The Couillard government wants to abolish extra medical fees patients sometimes have to pay at doctors' offices.

The province is looking into incorporating those fees into doctors' salaries so patients no longer have to pay them out of pocket.

Fees depend on the clinic. Some examples, according to a government official, include:

  • Eye drops: $20 to $300.
  • Inserting an IUD: $125 to $200.
  • Instruments and medication for a colonoscopy: $500.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette initially wanted to regulate these fees by creating a standardized price list. However, that move could have faced legal action by groups, especially those representing seniors, who argue regulating those fees amounts to imposing a type of private health care system on Quebecers and could violate the Canada Health Act.

Barrette was not available for an interview Monday, but his spokesperson wrote, "The government has the firm intention of settling the issue of extra fees and we want them to be included in the total salary of doctors."

To achieve that, Barrette will have to get the many associations of family doctors and specialist doctors to agree, and he will need to do that within the context of contract negotiations.

Doctors have been without a contract since March 2015.

Diane Francoeur, president of the federation of medical specialists, said she was surprised to hear the proposal on the news, since her federation had suggested exactly this idea last month.

"We're waiting for a response form the minister. Our phones are ready. Day, evening or night, we're ready to negotiate," she said at Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin morning show.

These negotiations would occur in a context where doctors have achieved substantial wage increases in recent years. Francoeur estimates that her members' pay is still 10 per cent below the national average, while other observers say it's as much as 15 percent above.

With files from Radio-Canada