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Pandemic pay has created a 'two tier' system in Ontario hospitals: physiotherapist
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A physiotherapist working in Windsor Regional Hospital says being left off the list of healthcare workers who will receive a top-up pay is a “slight” and an arbitrary line in the sand.
“It just feels like we've been ignored, like we're not quite the same, like there are two tiers in the hospital, a tier that’s worthy of the pandemic pay and a tier that’s not,” says Nadine Chauvin-Latour.
Chauvin-Latour works with patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and says her job is now “more tiresome” and stressful than ever before.
She tells CTV News, the government has explained the list excludes many different jobs because there isn’t enough money for all health care workers to qualify.
Back on April 25, the government announced it would give “frontline workers fighting COVID-19” a top-up in their pay of $4/hour.
“There's either money for all or money for none, in my point of view, when we work in the same institution and do the same thing with the patients,” says Chauvin-Latour.
The original list did not include many groups, including Respiratory Therapists, who work in ICU’s intubated infected COVID-19 patients.
Ontario unions, including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), fought the original list and won a small battle in having RT’s added to the pandemic pay list.
But Susan Bohnert-Hamelin, a pharmacist at Windsor Regional and President of Local 101 says it didn’t go far enough.
“Clearly there is a void, or clearly there's a misunderstanding of who actually is a frontline staff.”
She says they all love what they do, and signed up to “serve the community” in spite of the pandemic, but adds “morale has been down ever since the final decision came down.”
So today, OPSEU organized a march at both campuses of Windsor Regional Hospital in protest to the lack of “respect” for all frontline healthcare workers.
In the crowd, was Dr. Wassim Saad, chief of staff for Windsor Regional Hospital.
He says staff members left off the list are vital to the hospitals safe operation.
“From the people who do the turnover of the rooms, doing the cleaning that’s critically important to make sure the virus is not there anymore, to the porters who move people between the emergency room and the unit, to the nurses who look after them in the hospital, the lab techs, pharmacists, every single one of them is important.”
Both the CEO for Windsor Regional Hospital, David Musyj and Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Janice Kaffer, have sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford asking him to reconsider, saying the decision has “manifested into very negative morale and divisiveness amongst colleagues.”
After a half-hour march and small, physically-distanced rally, the healthcare workers went back to their jobs.
A reflection, Bohnert-Hamelin says of their commitment.
“We signed up as frontline workers, we signed up to serve the community, and every one of these individuals is proud of what they do, and they will support their co-worker whether they get the pay or not,” says Bohnert-Hamelin.
Sebastian Skamski, press secretary with the Office of the President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy responded to CTV News with a statement on Friday.
“As Premier Ford has said, we wish we could provide pandemic pay to every single frontline worker who has contributed to the fight against COVID-19,” said the statement. “Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of funding provided by the federal government through our shared agreement and we are not able to expand the pandemic pay program beyond the over 375,000 employees already deemed eligible.”