Nurses feel left in the dark on pay

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

In the months leading up to the provincial election, Doug Ford promised $763 million for nursing retention incentives, in the form of $5,000, but local nurses are still waiting for their pay.

Payments to individuals were to come in two instalments of $2,500 — one this spring and another in September.

Registered practical nurse Debbie Howson says she has yet to receive it. She hasn’t heard anything from anyone.

Howson, who works at Riverside in Emo says she has sent emails and left voicemails to their payroll, HR, and management with her questions still unanswered.

“I’m disappointed with Riverside not being upfront and forthcoming,” she says. “There’s been a lack of transparency.”

She says she has sent emails to Greg Rickford’s office in the past, and has not found anything.

She made it clear she does not have all the information, and is not looking to accuse anyone.

“I’m not trying to rake anybody through the coals,” she says. “I just want to know.”

Turning to the government aspect, Howson says she wonders what the stipulations are for receiving this bonus.

“Where is the guideline that says ‘OK, you get it because of this, this, this and this,’ or ‘we’re very sorry, you don’t qualify because this, this, and this’?” she says. “If you could send me that link, I’d go there and figure it out and be very happy about that. Maybe there is [a guide], but I can’t find it. It shouldn’t be a needle in a haystack.”

She expects the info would have been sent through the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, or somewhere else easily accessible to her.

“We have our nurses organization, we pay liabilities, and we pay into our union memberships,” she says. “Somewhere along the way this has broken down so that the small nurse on the bottom has no idea what’s going on with the supposed money that’s floating about.”

After some searching, the Times found the eligibility criteria and sent it to her.

“Why wouldn’t they let nurses be more aware of this?” she sent in an email.

She says she plans to share the document with her fellow nurses. It says individuals must fill out a form, and provide copies to their employers.

Howson worked through the pandemic at Fort Frances Family Health Team. She’s worked in healthcare since she was 18. Now 54, she says she’s looking toward retirement.

As an RPN, her days are 12 hours long. Every day she gets a call to work overtime.

“We’re burnt out and we’re not being heard,” says Howson.

She says nurses are leaving because of staff shortages and heavy workloads.

“I need some time to recuperate,” she says. “And it’s not just me. All the staff are working around the clock.”

She’s gotten to the point where she’s said she is no longer going to work overtime.

“I just can’t do it anymore,” she says. “I have to keep my sanity.”

She says she’s taking more time away from working overtime to do things that bring joy to her life.

“That is a big thing for anybody that works in a challenging profession — to try to find something that you can do outside of that when it’s stressful to find a bit of a relief.”

The Times reached out to both Greg Rickford’s office and Riverside Healthcare. MPP Rickford’s office redirected the Times to the Ministry of Health, who gave the following statement:

“The ministry is currently in the process of distributing funding to eligible employers. As the ministry is not the direct employer of these workers, exact payment dates will depend on each individual employer and are expected to occur throughout the spring for the first instalment, followed by the second payment in September. Nurses who have questions can reach out to their employer or can write to the ministry at”

Riverside Health Care also replied, giving the following response:

“Riverside would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff for their commitment and dedication in serving the healthcare needs of our patients, residents, clients and the public during the pandemic. In keeping with the Ministry’s Nursing Retention Incentive promise, Riverside Healthcare is pleased to announce that it is currently working through the Nursing Retention Incentive payment process for our eligible nursing staff. Nursing staff should receive their first payment by the end of July. Riverside has issued a number of communications to all staff and managers, including a memo recently issued on June 15 to all staff via our Corporate Employee Portal. With regard to the comments of this individual related to the actions of our staff, it is not the practice of Riverside Healthcare Facilities Inc. to address personnel matters publicly, therefore we are not in a position to provide a comment.”