The number of doctors in Quebec has increased over the past dozen years, as has their pay, but the quality of care has declined, according to a study conducted on the province’s health care system.

The study, published on Wednesday, concluded that the remuneration of medical specialists increased 116 per cent from 2006 to 2015, while that of general practitioners went up 78 per cent. The number of doctors in the province increased by 17 per cent.

The amount of money spent on salaries went from $3.3 billion to $6.6 billion in current dollars, an annual increase of 8.1 per cent.

Study directors Damien Contandriopoulos and Astrid Brousselle noted that during the same period, the annual number of days worked by general practitioners decreased by 4.5 per cent and those worked by specialists went down 3.1 per cent.

The average number of visits per general practioner declined by 17 per cent, while among specialists, the decline was 12 per cent.

The authors called Quebec’s system for paying doctors dysfunctional and proposed that the rates for medical procedures be reviewed and be dependent on the time or effort required.

The study was commissioned by the Health and Welfare Commissioner, whose position was abolished in 2016 by Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette. 

Barrette dismissed the findings of the study, saying productivity has increased since 2015 due to changes he's made to the healthcare system over the past several years.  

"I think that doctors accepted the wakeup call in the way they are addressing the issue differently today," he said. "It's true, nobody can deny the fact productivity was going down between 2009 and 2014. Conversely, nobody can deny the fact productivity is increasing to a more balanced situation."

Contandriopoulos defended the findings, saying Quebec's system still relies on a fee-for-service model, which he said doesn't work. 

"What you don't want to have for a physician is a situation where it makes more financial sense to do something than something else," he said. "Even if you have a patient in front of you and you're trying to be a good physician, there's always the notion you could be earning more by shifting away from treating the patient."