Have your say: Area hospital leaders on inequality of pandemic pay

Have your say: Area hospital leaders on inequality of pandemic pay

To the Editors,

It takes a team to provide great care for a patient. Hospitals run on the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication of many different roles and people. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario is only possible because of the teamwork and ingenuity shown by all the staff of our hospitals. When it comes to recognizing their efforts, everyone deserves praise.

This spring, government announced that it would be providing temporary pandemic pay to frontline workers fighting COVID-19. We appreciate this recognition of the importance of the work hospital employees have been doing to fight the pandemic and provide patient care. However, as government shared further details about temporary pandemic pay, it became clear that not all frontline workers would be recognized.

In response, hospital leaders across our region penned an open letter to government regarding the lack of clarity and uncertainty surrounding pandemic pay eligibility, and its impact on the morale of our employees. We believe it is important to update the public about this important matter.

Our entire workforce continues to be at the forefront of the provincial pandemic response, working in very challenging circumstances to assure safe, high quality, sustainable care for the people we serve.

Unfortunately, employees working side-by-side to provide care for patients will not all be eligible for the additional pay. For example, nurses, personal support workers, and respiratory therapists have been selected to be recognized. However, physiotherapists and x-ray technicians who care for the same patients and work in the same hospital environment have been left off the list. Other key functions or roles are also omitted such as laboratory and pharmacy technicians.

Some have suggested that hospitals should use operating funds to provide temporary pandemic pay to any employees excluded by the government. The reality is, hospital budgets are overstretched and insufficient to meet the current demand for services. Moreover, the government recently adopted a new regulation preventing hospitals from extending temporary pandemic pay to employees who are not eligible.

While we continue to advocate for equal recognition for all employees, we will move forward to implement the pandemic pay program, recognizing it will take time for hospitals to administer payments to eligible employees. Hospitals across the region are working together to ensure we apply the eligibility criteria consistently.

The collective effort and morale of our teams remains essential to the provision of care for our patients and communities. We value the efforts of all of our employees and we believe they all deserve recognition for their contributions. We continue to urge government to extend pandemic pay to all hospital workers.

Submitted by:

Dr. David McNeil, President & CEO, Brant Community Healthcare System;

Sharon Moore, Interim President & CEO, Haldimand War Memorial Hospital;

Rob MacIsaac, President & CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences;

Lynne Pay, CEO, Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre;

Eric Vandewall, President & CEO,Joseph Brant Hospital;

Lynn Guerriero, President, Niagara Health;

Tom Thomson, Interim President & CEO, Norfolk General Hospital and West and West Haldimand General Hospital;

Melissa Farrell, President, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

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