Quebec says deal with medical specialists will allow it to save $3B by 2023

The Quebec government is defending the confidential deal it's struck with Quebec medical specialists, saying the province will save billions over the next five years, even as it pays out money owed to specialists.

Treasury Board President Pierre Arcand calls 8-year deal 'reasonable, under the circumstances'

Treasury Board President Pierre Arcand said concessions made by the specialists federation in the eight-year deal will save the Quebec government billions of dollars, even with the pay increase the doctors will be receiving. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is defending the confidential deal it struck with medical specialists earlier this week, saying the province will save billions over the next five years even as it pays out money owed to specialists. 

Quebec revealed the details of its agreement with the federation of specialists Friday.

Under the eight-year deal, which is retroactive to 2015, Quebec medical specialists get an annual salary increase of 1.4 per cent until 2023.

The agreement also honours a contract that was signed in 2007 between the province and the federation, which was meant to close the gap between specialists' salaries and those of their counterparts in Ontario.

The Quebec government has been withholding some of the money the 10,000 specialists are still owed under that deal.

As part of the final instalment to be paid out, sources have told Radio-Canada that close to $500 million will be divided up among the doctors. The amount each doctor will receive varies based on their specialty.

According to data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, medical specialists in Quebec make, on average, $403,537 a year, compared to $367,154 in Ontario.

Specialists in B.C. make slightly more than those in Ontario, coming in at $367,807.

No data was available from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

Opposition parties have blasted the government for the size of the payout, given the fact that Quebec specialists now make more than their counterparts everywhere in Canada except for P.E.I. and Yukon.

However, Treasury Board President Pierre Arcand defended it Friday, calling it "reasonable, under the circumstances."

"The numbers seem astronomical, but when we dissect them, we see the logic behind all of this," said Arcand.

Penalties under Bill 20, Bill 130 suspended

The province, however, says it will still save $3 billion based on other aspects of the deal.

Under the agreement, a pay equity clause under which specialists were entitled to the same annual increase as other public sector workers has been abolished, for savings of $1.4 billion.

Other savings will come from the imposition of a cap on compensation packages for new doctors who are not part of the 2007 deal.
The agreement also honours a contract that was signed in 2007 between the province and medical specialists, which was meant to close the gap between their salaries and those of their Canadian counterparts. (Radio-Canada)

For its part, the federation of specialists has committed to paying for some services out of doctors' own remuneration packages. Among those measures, specialists will guarantee no disruption in service; they are committed to absorbing the cost of ultrasounds done in private offices and to improving access to MRIs.

The government said that those measures will amount to $105 million in savings.

Under the terms of the agreement, any disruption in specialists' services could lead to fines of $3,000 a day against individual specialists and $200,000 a day against their associations.

However, the government has suspended the penalties set out in two key pieces of legislation that have been major irritants with doctors, Bill 20 — the law requiring doctors to take on more patients — and Bill 130, which forces doctors to perform key clinical duties or face disciplinary action.

With files from Loreen Pindera and Radio-Canada's Sébastien Bovet