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Ontario nurses need pay parity with police, firefighters amid pandemic staffing crunch

Nurses in Ontario say the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections has revealed long-standing issues within the occupation that should be addressed, together with higher pay.

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

For her, there are two elements to the compensation difficulty.

As the Omicron variant leaves hospitals fighting a surge in COVID-19 sufferers and health-care staff, together with nurses, are getting sick and struggling burnout, Hoy mentioned one in all the methods to to usher in extra nurses and to retain them is to have pay parity with different important staff like firefighters and police.

Those latter sectors are additionally exempt from Bill 124, handed in 2019 by the Ford authorities to cap wage will increase at one per cent a 12 months for public sector staff, together with nurses and academics. 

“Nursing is also a female-dominated profession, and [Bill 124] speaks to a lack of respect for that profession,” mentioned Hoy. 

The CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Doris Grinspun, factors to the U.S., the place most nurses are making as much as six figures. 

“We have a problem of how the province is valuing … nurses,” she mentioned. 

Nurses caring for COVID-19 sufferers in an intensive care unit. Union heads say nurses are underpaid and undervalued and that is why many are leaving the occupation after dealing with exhaustion and burnout in the course of the pandemic. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The present pay vary for a registered nurse working at an Ontario hospital is between $34.24 an hour of their first 12 months of service to $49.02 an hour after 25 years of service.

The Ministry of Health didn’t say whether or not it could take into account lifting the wage cap or paying nurses extra, however in a press release spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene mentioned: “Since the start of the pandemic, the province has added over 6,700 health care workers and staff to the system. We are working to add 6,000 more health care workers before the end of March 2022.”

‘It’s getting actually overwhelming’

Eram Chhogala, a registered nurse who works within the emergency room at two Toronto hospitals, mentioned she is aware of many who’re selecting to go away the occupation. 

“It’s getting really overwhelming,” she mentioned, recalling a latest shift the place 4 or 5 individuals got here in affected by COVID-19 and needed to be placed on life help. 

Nurses put together earlier than attending to a COVID-19 affected person in an intensive care unit. (Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel)

Chhogala mentioned nurses in hospitals sometimes work a 12-hour shift, however have lately been working as a lot as 16 hours due to colleagues are getting contaminated. 

“I feel a lot of nurses have felt overworked and undervalued, and it seems the pay and treatment hasn’t matched the appreciation of what nurses do.”

International nurses

To ease the staffing crunch, the province introduced this week it’s fast-tracking internationally-trained nurses to hospitals and permitting them to bypass prolonged licensing packages. 

But Hoy is looking for a proper program. “They’re educated, and ready and willing to work,” she mentioned. 

Raisa Deber, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, mentioned there isn’t a cause to not put such a program in place. 

“In Canada, it’s extremely difficult [for] foreign-trained nurses to get a licence,” she mentioned. “You, in effect, have to go through nursing school again.”

22,000 nurses wanted, NDP, ONA say

On Thursday, the Ontario NDP and ONA launched a joint assertion saying they imagine the province wants 22,000 extra nurses.

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

“The price we’re paying is our members and our patients.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions has known as on governments to undertake “circuit-breaker measures” to decelerate the unfold of the novel coronavirus. 

The federation additionally introduced its opposition to some hospitals having health-care staff caring for sufferers whereas constructive for COVID-19

“We’re in this position because governments have ignored the nursing shortage for far too long.” mentioned president Linda Silas. 

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