By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND–Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand Norfolk’s Medical Officer of Health, is being granted a $160,000 “top up” for overtime hours logged in 2020, in addition to his $240,000 base salary. The Board of Health, which is operated by Norfolk County on behalf of Haldimand, passed the resolution last Wednesday.
“We applied to the Province for funding to cover the unexpected costs of COVID-19. The Board of Health voted to use some of those funds to cover the unpaid overtime accrued by non-union Health Unit staff responding to the pandemic. This includes the Medical Officer of Health,” said Matt Terry, Director of Corporate Communications for Norfolk County.
Kristal Chopp, Mayor of Norfolk County and Board of Health Chair, voted in favour of the payment, but was very clear about her feelings during the meeting last week. “I want to be clear that – while I respect Dr. Nesathurai – I personally do not agree with a payment of this size to anyone.”
Chopp blamed the large payment on contractual language that left the Board of Health without much of a choice in the matter.
“This is not unique to Norfolk. The Ford government has been doling out payments to medical officers of health across the province to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t think that is fair to all our other staff members that have shouldered additional responsibilities throughout this pandemic or the taxpayers of Ontario that have lost their jobs as a result of restrictions that have been imposed upon them. There are certainly winners and losers that are emerging from this pandemic and it isn’t right,” said Chopp.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of phone calls and emails about this and people do not feel that it is fair because people are going through very, very tough times,” said Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett. “As an elected MPP and part of the provincial government, we are doing everything we can to help businesses, to help people who have lost their jobs. My office has heard it loud and clear that this decision is not appropriate.”
Barrett clarified that despite the divisive payment to Dr. Nesathurai, he believes the frontline workers who have put themselves at risk over the last year deserve fair compensation for their efforts.
“The Board of Health submitted this overtime amount, I have no idea what goes on in their meetings or what was asked for,” said Barrett. “Just about everything that Premier Ford talks about and sends out as far as health and resources and money for frontline workers or to help essential workers, I support that 100%. It’s all about helping frontline workers to get through this…the grants are there and I fully support that.”
Haldimand County General Manager of Corporate & Social Services Cathy Case clarified Haldimand County’s role in the overtime top ups received by Dr. Nesathurai and other non-union medical staff in Norfolk County.
“The municipalities are not responsible to come up with these funds and this particular payment does not impact the municipal levy. It is our understanding that any funds flowing from the Province related to the Medical Officer of Health compensation are to be paid to the Medical Officer of Health, as per provincial requirements,” explained Case. “Haldimand pays a portion of costs for Health and Social Services (H&SS), to Norfolk County. These costs are based on approved cost-sharing formulas that differ for each function within the H&SS Department (i.e. Social Services, Child Care, Social Housing and Public Health).”
“These formulas are intended to cover costs on a holistic level which includes supplies, service delivery, administration costs – and of course, this includes all staff,” said Case. “However, H&SS employees are considered to be Norfolk County employees with respect to the employment relationship. Basically, Haldimand County pays Norfolk County annually for the overall programs/services they provide to Haldimand, which inevitably includes staffing. We do not specifically pay for any list of employees.”
The payment is the result of Dr. Nesathurai submitting 1,060 hours of overtime when solicited by a provincial report. An additional $102,000 was paid out to 10 additional non-union medical staff members who also submitted their overtime hours through the report. Dr. Nesathurai is expected to top Norfolk County’s Sunhine List for 2020, once revealed.