Ontario nurses want pay parity with police and firefighters amid pandemic staffing shortages

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Ontario nurses say the latest wave of COVID-19 infections has exposed long-standing issues in the profession that need to be addressed, including better pay.

“They are very educated people and they want to be respected,” said Cathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).

For her, the question of compensation has two aspects.

As an Omicron variant leaves hospitals struggling with surge in COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers, including nurses, are getting sick and suffering from burnout, Hoy said one way to bring in more nurses and keep them is to have pay parity with d other essential workers like firefighters and police.

The latter sectors are also exempt from Bill 124, passed in 2019 by the Ford government to cap wage increases at 1% per year for public sector workers, including nurses and teachers.

“Nursing is also a predominantly female profession, and [Bill 124] shows a lack of respect for this profession, Hoy said.

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario CEO Doris Grinspun points to the United States, where most nurses earn up to six figures.

“We have a problem with how the province values ​​… nurses,” she said.

Nurses caring for COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit. Union leaders say nurses are underpaid and undervalued and that’s why many are leaving the profession after facing burnout and burnout during the pandemic. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The current salary range for an RN working in an Ontario hospital is between $34.24 per hour in their first year of service and $49.02 per hour after 25 years of service. service.

The Department of Health did not say whether it would consider lifting the salary cap or paying nurses more, but in a statement, spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the province added more than 6,700 healthcare workers and employees to the We are working to add an additional 6,000 healthcare workers before the end of March 2022.”

“It’s getting really overwhelming”

Eram Chhogala, a registered nurse who works in the emergency rooms of two Toronto hospitals, said she knows many who choose to leave the profession.

“It’s getting really overwhelming,” she said, recalling a recent shift where four or five people arrived with COVID-19 and had to be put on life support.

Nurses prepare before caring for a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit. (Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel)

Chhogala said hospital nurses usually work 12 hours, but have recently worked until 4 p.m. because colleagues are infected.

“I feel like a lot of nurses have felt overworked and undervalued, and it seems like the pay and salary doesn’t match the appreciation of what nurses do.”

International nurses

To ease the staffing shortage, the province announced this week that it accelerating the recruitment of internationally trained nurses to hospitals and allowing them to bypass lengthy licensing programs.

But Hoy is asking for a formal program. “They are educated, ready and willing to work,” she said.

Raisa Deber, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, said there was no reason not to implement such a program.

“In Canada, it is extremely difficult [for] internationally trained nurses to get a license,” she said. “Actually, you have to go through nursing school again.

22,000 nurses needed, say NPD and ONA

On Thursday, the Ontario NDP and the ONA released a joint statement saying they believe the province needs 22,000 more nurses.

Hoy said “nothing was done about it” for years.

“The price we pay is our members and our patients.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions has called on governments to adopt “circuit breaker measures” to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The federation also announced its opposition to certain hospitals having healthcare workers caring for patients while positive for COVID-19.

“We are in this position because governments have ignored the nursing shortage for too long.” said President Linda Silas.

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