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The Nova Scotia government is throwing cash at nurses, paramedics and others in the health-care system to try to get them to keep working in the province, or to come back if they have already left.
Premier Tim Houston announced Monday afternoon that 11,000 registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners who work for health authorities, Emergency Medical Care Inc. (EMCI), continuing care and disability support programs will be immediately eligible for a $10,000 retention bonus.
They can get another $10,000 next year if they sign an agreement to stay for another two years
Another $10,000 incentive will be paid next year to nurses who commit to staying in the system for another two years.
And any nurses who left the public health care system and agree to return to work before the end of this month for another two years will also get a $10,000 payment.
Another 44,000 health-care workers including paramedics, telehealth staff, respiratory therapists, continuing care staff, ward clerks, housekeeping and food service staff and more, will receive a retention bonus of up to $5,000. Eligible employees work for publicly funded health authorities, EMCI, Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia, the continuing care sector and disability support programs.
“Every single day nurses and health-care professionals are asked to shoulder an enormous burden monitoring, treating, providing world-class care to patients who are also dealing with an enormous range of health care challenges and their own emotions,” Houston said at the announcement at the Dartmouth General Hospital.
“The workload continues to grow, the pressure continues to grow, and you face it with a ‘do-not-quit’ attitude. And we see it.”
Houston said he knows the pressures lead to many in the health-care system “burning themselves out,” and the first $10,000 payment is a way to say thanks for that “with no strings attached.”
All the money is part of the Progressive Conservatives’ promise to invest whatever it takes to fix the health-care system, he said.
The bonuses and incentives will be prorated based on the full-time equivalent position that people hold, and if they started work after January of this year.
“Money certainly isn’t the answer to everything … but it’s a way to recognize your effort, to help keep people working in our health-care system and bring people back to our system, and to support each other,” Houston said.
If each employee were to receive the full amount, the bonuses over the next two years would total $440 million, with another $24 million earmarked for people returning to work.
“Money certainly isn’t the answer to everything … but it’s a way to recognize your effort, to help keep people working in our health-care system and bring people back to our system.”
– Premier Tim Houston
Managers who provide direct clinical patient care, physicians and medical residents are not eligible, nor are those working in federally regulated groups, or those not directly employed by a provincially funded health employer.
Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union president Janet Hazleton said in a release that the retention payments for nurses working in all sectors of care across the province is a “step in the right direction.”
The money acknowledges the hardships that nurses have endured, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hazelton more needs to be done to retain staff.
“Money is part of a multi-pronged approach to keeping nurses on the job, in our public healthcare system,” she said. “We must restore work-life balance, ensure nurses are not working short and are not working an excessive amount of overtime.”
The Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions is now bargaining for acute care nurses on issues such as workplace violence, burnout and moral injury, time off, access to professional development opportunities, 24-hour shifts, staffing ratios, workload, incentives for late-career nurses, and scheduling flexibility. All are factors in retaining nurses, Hazleton said.
The union expects the news will be well-received by many of its members but expects some will want remuneration beyond Monday’s announcement.
“In addition to this announcement, it’s vital to achieve wage increases during negotiations, an economic adjustment that keeps Nova Scotia competitive in the long-term,” Hazleton said.
Liberal leader and health and wellness critic Zach Churchill said a record number of nurses and other health-care workers have left the system over the past two years.
“We hope this is helpful in keeping and retaining those critical people in our health care system, but we also know that it’s not all about money,” Churchill said. “But we also know that it’s not just about the money. Working conditions have been playing a big part in why nurses, paramedics and other health care professionals have been leaving the system.”
He said health workers are in high-stress jobs “and can’t even get a vacation or a break. We do hope this helps stop the bleeding, certainly nurses and other health-care professionals deserve this, but we also know that working conditions have to improve if we’re going to have success at retaining people.”
Source: Ross Arrowsmith