Critical care nurses in southern Ontario have reached a breaking point, claiming that more than a year and a half of harsh pandemic work and stagnant pay has resulted in a major staffing shortage that is endangering patients.
They say they don’t know how they or their hospitals will manage when the fourth wave begins, with the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario reaching 639 on Monday.
Four nurses volunteered to remain anonymous so that they could speak freely about the situation at their hospitals. They all claimed they would risk serious retaliation from management if they spoke out without permission.
“I’m sure I’d be fired,” said a Toronto nurse with more than 20 years of experience in the emergency room. She stated, however, that she is unable to remain silent any longer.
She runs the Instagram account @nursewithsign416 and uses the hashtag #RNsilentnomore to post photographs of nurses, their families, and other health professionals holding signs highlighting the significance of experienced nurses and how worn out they are.
Many of the tweets urge that Premier Doug Ford’s government repeal Bill 124, a 2019 law that limited yearly compensation increases for many public sector employees, including nurses, to 1% per year for three years.
The Ministry of Health committed $61 million in financing to train, attract, and hire thousands of registered and practical nurses lately. In 2020, the province also gave nurses a four-month pay raise due to the pandemic, and it is working to give mental health support for front-line health-care professionals.
Jensen said it’s “inaccurate” to say Bill 124, which affects nurses, teachers, and many other public-sector workers, caps wage increases at 1% each year because they can still obtain raises based on seniority and performance.
Even though she’s at the top of the pay scale, the Toronto nurse said her 1% raise translates to 47 cents an hour, despite the fact that she’s undertaking the most dangerous and demanding work of her career.
She said she’s seen other first responders, such as local cops and, most recently, the RCMP, earn far bigger salaries, and she wonders why her coworkers aren’t getting the same. “You can’t call us heroes on one hand and then give us 47 cents on the other,” she explained.
Hundreds of nurses have left her emergency department this year alone, she claims, because they are worn out, underpaid, and disregarded by hospitals and the province.