'Irresponsible' to give bonuses to staff at some hospitals, not others, says MNA

The Quebec government's decision to dole out bonuses to some medical imaging technicians in the Outaouais and not others is drawing criticism and concern.

The newly announced incentives broaden another agreement reached back in May between the Alliance of Professional and Technical Personnel in Health and Social Services (APTS) and the province.

That agreement offered financial incentives to medical imaging technicians at the Hull and Gatineau hospitals, in order to prevent an exodus of staff to Ontario.

At the time, rural hospitals in the Outaouais voiced concerns that they were being left out.

Now, imaging technicians at the Papineau and Maniwaki hospitals who were excluded previously will get bonuses as well — but not those who work at the hospitals in Shawville and Wakefield.

"A long-time employee here told me last week that if there was not good news here for the Pontiac, he would be leaving," said Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, who was speaking to media outside the Shawville hospital on Thursday.

"We are not going to stand here and watch a crisis result, which means possibly no surgery and no imagery here at this hospital."

The announcement was a "slap in the face," Toller said, adding that Quebec's health minister had reassured her earlier this week that bonuses would be across the board.

"It was a complete shock, because we were given his word," she said.

The sign for the hospital in Shawville, Que.
The sign for the Pontiac Hospital in Shawville, Que. (Rebecca Kwan/Radio-Canada)

'Hard to understand'

In a French-language post on X, Health Minister Christian Dubé said the bonuses were a gesture to protect services in the region and added the ministry was continuing to monitor the situation closely.

The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) has been struggling with a major labour shortage in medical imaging and said in a statement these financial incentives could help stabilize resources in the short term.

The two-year agreement provides for a 10 per cent increase in salary during the summer. It also includes an annual lump sum of about $22,000 for staff at the Papineau Hospital and about $18,000 for those at the Maniwaki Hospital.

But the decision to exclude the Shawville and Wakefield hospitals is "irresponsible," said André Fortin, the Liberal MNA for Pontiac.

"The services here are just as important. The citizens here, they pay the same taxes. And to know that their services are now put at risk because of an unjustifiable decision is hard to understand," Fortin said.

CBC asked Quebec's health ministry why it chose to exclude some hospitals in the Outaouais but didn't receive a response before deadline.

In a French interview with Radio-Canada, Christine Prégent, APTS's national representative for the Outaouais, said she was pleased to return to the negotiating table but will continue to fight for equality across the region.