The Quebec government has announced it will provide nurses with financial bonuses of up to $18,000 as part of its emergency plan to fix the staffing crisis in the province’s health-care network. 

Bonuses of $15,000 will go to full-time nurses and part-time nurses in the public system who are willing to work full-time, and nurses who have quit will get $12,000 if they come back, Premier François Legault announced Thursday afternoon. 

He said the plan would cost close to $1 billion, but that the government had to offer financial incentives as thousands of exhausted workers fled the system during the pandemic. 

“Nurses have taken care of us for a long time. It’s time we take care of them,” Legault said.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said only 60 per cent of nurses in the public system work full-time, adding that this is “not enough.”

He hopes the incentives will convince an extra 15 per cent to work full time and attract about 4,300 nurses back into the system.

Dubé said having more nurses working would improve schedules and significantly reduce forced overtime, which became a common practice during the pandemic. 

The government also hopes to reduce the widespread use of private temp agency workers.

“The public network has to be the better place to work, not these agencies,” Legault said. 

Province also hiring administrative assistants 

Legault also announced that the government will hire 3,000 administrative workers to assist nurses with any bureaucratic duties, allowing them to focus on caring for patients. He said nurses estimate they spend up to 30 per cent of their time filling out paperwork. 

The administrative staff will be trained over the coming months and are expected to be ready by the spring. 

Nurses in five Quebec regions where the situation is particularly dire — including the Outaouais, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the North Shore, Northern Quebec and the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine — would receive an additional bonus of $3,000. 

Legault said the Outaouais and Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions, which are near the Ontario border, had lost nurses to the neighbouring province due to bonuses of about $10,000 it had offered them.

Premier François Legault, middle, was accompanied by Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel, left, and Health Minister Christian Dubé, right, to announce the government’s plan in response to the health-care system’s staffing crisis Thursday. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

In recent months, several hospital ERs in the province have been forced to close temporarily, curtail hours or are operating at more than 200 per cent capacity due to a lack of personnel since the beginning of the pandemic, as nurses decry how dismal working conditions have become.

In July, doctors for another health board, the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, penned an open letter to Quebec’s Health Ministry, warning that emergency room services could break down to due staffing shortages caused by pandemic working conditions.

According to Quebec’s Order of Nurses, about 20 per cent more nurses are working for private agencies this year, suggesting hundreds have left the public sector since the start of the pandemic. 

Plan doesn’t address working conditions: opposition

One nurse, who CBC agreed not to name because she is not authorized to speak to media, said the announcement will do nothing for her.

The woman works part-time as an emergency room nurse on the night shift, but says she cannot afford to take on full-time work overnight because she is a single mother. 

“I’m penalized either way,” she said. 

Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said the Quebec government’s bonus plan doesn’t address the working conditions that are causing the staffing shortage. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade criticized the measures for not abolishing forced overtime and decreasing the load of patients each nurse is mandated to care for. 

“This is typical of the [Coalition Avenir Québec] government, where they wait until things get seriously bad to act,” she said. 

“What’s more, this plan does not truly address working conditions.”

Source From CBC News

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