Nunavut government offers more money in bid to bolster health staff
Incentives to recruit and retain health-care workers comes as part of memorandum of understanding with Nunavut union
The Nunavut government and Nunavut Employees Union hope a new incentive package will help recruit health-care workers and keep them in the territory.
They announced a memorandum of understanding Friday that includes bonuses for recruitment and retention, hourly wage premiums for difficult to recruit positions and short-staffing situations, and loan forgiveness for Nunavut health-care workers who studied and work in the territory.
Some current health-care employees will receive increased pay as a result of the agreement, and it will be retroactive.
“I don’t know if you can tell but I’m really happy today,” said Health Minister John Main.
“I tend to worry a lot when it comes to the state of health care in Nunavut and the needs of Nunavummiut, but today’s a really happy day.”
Main was at the announcement, which took place at the legislative assembly, with NEU president Jason Rochon and Premier P.J. Akeeagok.
Main said he hopes the incentives will help alleviate staffing concerns during times when health centres may face staff shortages, such as at Christmas.
He also said he hopes it will make Nunavut more competitive when it comes to recruitment and show appreciation for staff already in the territory.
“I’m just so happy for all our incredible staff,” Main said.
“We’ve looking for ways to show them they’re appreciated, that we hear them and their concerns and that we’re listening.”
Nurse retention has long been a challenge in Nunavut. Earlier this year, a former Resolute Bay nurse launched a lawsuit against the GN, alleging harassment and wrongful dismissal.
Beyond monetary incentives, Nunatsiaq News asked Main if the memorandum of understanding includes mental health supports.
Main said there are existing mental health resources available to staff through the Department of Human Resources, such as the employee and family assistance program which offers 24/7 personal counselling for staff and their family.
“Those resources are in place and they’re resources we encourage our staff to access,” he said.
For Rochon, the agreement was an opportunity to work with the GN to make sure people in communities don’t go without health care because their health centre has to close due to staffing issues.
Five community health centres — Kinngait, Pangirtung, Kimmirut, Grise Fiord and Arctic Bay — have had to temporarily shut their doors at various times for this reason.
“We can’t have that in Nunavut or anywhere in Canada,” Rochon said.
Beyond the money, Main said he hopes the agreement shows the GN is following through on its intention to be a good employer.
“We can’t just use lip service,” he said.
“We can’t just make nice speeches in the [legislative] assembly and say, ‘Our health-care workers are our backbone.’ We need to show them.”