A Liberal cabinet minister who practised medicine briefly while sitting in opposition and collected $215,000 in bonuses for taking on new patients is facing calls to repay the money and even resign.
Yves Bolduc, an admitted workaholic, is facing criticism for collecting a bonus of $100 to $208.60 for each of the 1,500 patients he added during the 18 months the Parti Québécois led a precarious minority government.
While other MNAs moonlight, including at least one other physician who does occasional hospital shifts to remain current, Dr. Bolduc was among three doctors who collected the most bonuses from a program designed to alleviate a long-term family practice shortage.
Dr. Bolduc, who is the Liberal education minister, said on Tuesday he has no intention of resigning or repaying all the money, but he admitted he will have to give back $40,000 to $60,000 because he returned to government in the spring and closed his practice before some of the patients had been under his care for a year.
Dr. Bolduc said he has always worked extremely long hours, seven days a week, and dedicated 20 to 30 hours each week to medicine. He billed medicare $365,000 on top of his MNA salary of $89,950.
"Other doctors say, 'No, I'm not taking on any patients.' I was in the habit of saying, 'Yes.' I always said yes," Dr. Bolduc said. "I have a big heart and a large capacity for work. These people did not have family doctors, and they were happy to have me.Every doctor in Quebec who takes a new patient takes that bonus."
Dr. Bolduc approved the bonus plan when he was health minister to entice family physicians to take more patients.
Doctors had to keep the new patients for at least a year.
Claude Castonguay, a former Liberal cabinet minister who was an architect of Quebec's medicare system, demanded in an open letter on Monday that Mr. Bolduc resign, saying he was no longer worthy to sit in cabinet.
"He used his knowledge of the system for paying physicians approved when he was health minister. It's using this knowledge that he drew the maximum while giving the minimum," Mr. Castonguay said. "He set the worst example, sticking both hands into our small butter dish."
PQ health critic Diane Lamarre said Dr. Bolduc should repay the $215,000. While he followed the letter of law, she said, he clearly violated its spirit.
"We recognize he was willing to work with patients, and that he was within his rights to be paid," Ms. Lamarre said. "What is unacceptable is taking the bonus for vulnerable people who have diabetes and cancer and need long-term care. It's immoral."
Dr. Bolduc, who says he saw patients on weekends and evenings, said he was thinking of the long-term welfare of patients when he signed them up and could not have predicted the minority government would end after just 18 months.