On February 2, the Quebec Ministry of Health denied a request made by volunteer orthopedic surgeons in Haiti to receive remuneration of $700-$800 a day for their time and services.
“Despite their worthy gesture, we cannot pay volunteers who went to Haiti on a voluntary basis, without coordination with the institutions responsible for this and without an official mission order,” said Karine Rivard, the press attache for Yves Bolduc, Quebec’s Health Minister.
Rivard explained that Quebec’s current involvement in Haiti ultimately swayed the decision of the ministry.
“Since the tragic events in Haiti, the Quebec health and social services department has been contributing to the international aid efforts by responding to the needs expressed by the federal government and international organizations,” she said, noting that Quebec has worked closely with the Red Cross.
The surgeons traveled with a group of eight to 10 other volunteer physicians from Quebec, including orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and general surgeons, on their own accord without attachments to any particular organization.
Bolduc has said the requests were made by the physicians with the belief that through compensation, the Quebec government could show their support for the relief effort in Haiti. Bolduc said the physicians have also argued that remuneration could help keep their offices open, allow them to stay for longer, and encourage other physicians to join in the effort
“There are many consequences to the decision,” Bolduc told the National Post on January 27. “Because there are many people who work in the aid scene and they are volunteers and they are not paid.”
However, doctors who sign on with organizations like Médecins sans frontières (MSF) receive a small stipend for their time.
“The doctors who are recruited by MSF receive compensation but not a real salary. On their first mission, physicians receive $1484 a month,” said an MSF spokesperson.
Comparing MSF doctors to the group of Quebec physicians, the MSF spokesperson suggested that doctors must understand the full implications of deciding to be a volunteer.
“We are a professional organization. [The Quebec doctors are] something completely different. I don’t know who is sending them or which organization they are working for. If they decide to work for MSF, they have to accept the really low salary we offer,” they added.
The Association des orthopédistes du Québec declined to comment.