Paquette: Premier Ford — to avoid shortages, pay the nurses properly

Asking retired physicians and medical students to help provide bedside patient care, at four times the pay rate of current nurses, is neither practical in the short term nor sustainable over time.

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Dear Premier Ford: My wife is a nurse with The Ottawa Hospital. I know the term “nurse” has been synonymous with a lot of terms that have been created and used since the pandemic, such as “front-line worker” or “health-care hero.” I think this originally was to help identify and recognize the efforts of all those working in public-facing positions within the pandemic and I applaud and thank all who have worked on this in the past two years. However, and to ensure there is no misinterpretation of who needs help and support currently, I am going to be concrete: Pay the nurses.


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I have watched during the first few waves of the pandemic as my wife picked up extra shifts, worked overtime, came hime adorned what seemed to be permanent imprints on her skin from personal protective equipment — all for the sake of helping the public in a time of need. The “pandemic pay” at the onset of this global crisis reinforced to our nurses and other front-line workers that we recognized their efforts and their sacrifices. Now, with ICUs and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 at a an all-time high, and burnout rates for nurses even higher, I question where the current recognition from the government is. Where are you in the nurses’ time of need? Why did your support and show of gratitude wane as the waves continued and the burden and weight of being the backbone of our health-care industry became so much heavier?

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In response to increases in hospitalizations, and subsequent nursing shortages, there have been efforts to try to fix the problem, but the solution was right in front of you: Pay the nurses. I have read stories, in addition to my own wife’s report, of nurses’ work demands being doubled, without compensation for same. Nurses not getting their breaks or lunches, or even having time to use the bathroom, as the demands on them are too high. What good are more beds if there aren’t any nurses there to provide care to the people in them?

Recently, proposals have been made for the use of travelling nurses, physicians and medical students to help supplement the nursing shortage. Travelling nurses work beside local nurses but are making significantly more per hour. In a recent message from The Ottawa Hospital, there was discussion of using an expansive group, including physicians and medical students, to help provide bedside patient care. Essentially they are doing the work of a nurse, but are being paid up to $170-$320 an hour. Training and holding the hand of someone not trained in bedside care will not ease nurses’ burden. In fact, it will increase their already substantial burden. Not to mention the fact that you’re willing to pay someone four times as much to do the same job, but worse.

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This is in direct contradiction to what needs to be done to show nurses they have our support. It is a slap in the face. This is not the equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. This is the equivalent of stabbing the shooting victim in the back, then applying the bandage.

The solution is simple. Pay the nurses. Double their wages for all the work they continue to do, and they will come back to providing care. You will still save money compared to what you’re willing to pay others to complete the job unsatisfactorily. Also, repeal Bill 124 (which limits wage increases to a maximum of one per cent for three years). This bill, especially given rates of inflation, basically means each nurse has gotten a pay decrease for working during the pandemic the past two years.

No wonder they are leaving. You need to do something: Pay the nurses.

Joel Paquette is the spouse of an Ottawa nurse. 



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