COURTNEY McCLURE, The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: According to a press release, sent out on March 7th, 2022, the provincial government is investing about $763 million into the provincial nursing workforce. This payment is meant to keep nurses working across Ontario’s healthcare sector. Some nurses across Ontario may be able to receive up to $5,000, offered as a retention payment from the provincial government. Through this temporary retention payment, the government is providing eligible, full-time nurses with up to $5,000. This also includes a prorated payment of up to $5,000 for eligible part-time and casual nursing staff. Respective employers will pay the payment of $5,000 in two instalments. Eligibility includes full-time nurses working in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, community and at-home care facilities. You may also be eligible if you’re a nurse working in a mental health and addiction facility, emergency services or in corrections services. According to Cathryn Hoy, the president/interim CEO and RN of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), there are “too many holes” in the government’s criteria. When she spoke to the provincial government, each nurse in Ontario was supposed to get $5,000. “When the criteria came out, they changed it to five-thousand for an [eligible] full-time nurse and prorated for part-time [nurses], but in a ten-week block,” explained Ms. Hoy. To explain, Ms. Hoy used the example, as if she was a part-time nurse changing employers within that ten-week block. “Am I going to get it [the retention payment]? I don’t know,” she added. If a nurse works full-time for 20 years and then switches to part-time, they won’t get the retention bonus, according to Ms. Hoy. “That’s why it’s problematic because it’s not fair and equal across the board,” she continued. “Part-timers came in and worked their committed hours, just like the full-timers, so their value… is just as great.” According to Ms. Hoy, the ONA has been asking the provincial government for two years to repeal Bill 124. Bill 124 was introduced in 2019 by the provincial government of Ontario. This bill limits wage increases for registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners and health care professionals, to 1 percent annually, for three years. “Healthcare is a female-dominated profession,” said Ms. Hoy. Ms. Hoy described the police force as a counterpart to nurses within the healthcare field. According to her, nurses work comparable hours, there are comparable risks within these two respective fields, and there’s a lot of violence in nursing. She explained, there are nurses who get beat up by patients, on a daily basis. The police force makes at least 14 percent more than nurses, said Ms. Hoy. “[Provincial] Elections are coming up,” explained Ms. Hoy. “I really want to encourage Ontario to come out and vote.” She would like people to look at the platforms politicians are putting forward. She thinks Ontario is on a “slippery slope” when it comes to public healthcare. She also thinks the provincial government wants to create a private healthcare system. She said a private healthcare system works great for high-income nurses and upper middle-wage workers but it doesn’t help middle and lower-income families. “You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and we really need to save our public healthcare system,” she said.