The list of 'forgotten' health-care workers not getting Ontario's $4 per hour wage increase
Paramedics place a resident into an ambulance at Orchard Villa Care home in Pickering, Ont. on Sunday, April 26, 2020. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
TORONTO -- Health-care workers from a number of fields are voicing their concerns after the Ontario government left them out of a $4 per hour pay premium for employees on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Saturday a temporary "pandemic payment" for workers risking their lives during the health emergency. But paramedics, pharmacists and respiratory therapists on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 say they've been forgotten.
The list of workers eligible includes dozens of people working in acute hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and home and community care, but these three groups have been left out.
- FULL LIST: Who is eligible for the "pandemic payments"?
Eligible workers would receive an additional $4 an hour for the next 16 weeks, and a possible $250 lump-sum a month if they worked 100 hours or more.
The Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario told CTV News Toronto on Monday that its members were “disheartened” to see they were not mentioned on the list of eligible employees.
“Respiratory therapists are on the frontlines of this pandemic as are many other disciplines that were not mentioned,” Kelly Hassall, the president-elect of the organization, said.
“Respiratory therapists provide respiratory care to the public across the continuum of care; from supporting our most vulnerable patients at home with oxygen and assistive devices to assisting in the resuscitation of babies, children and adults in the acute care setting.”
Last month, the regulatory body for Ontario's respiratory therapists fast-tracked the certification of final-year students to meet the health-care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The society has sent a letter to the Ford government asking for clarification as to why respiratory therapists are not eligible for the payment given their crucial work during the pandemic.
The union representing paramedics in Peel Region told CTV News Toronto on Monday that it is concerned more about the lack of recognition than the pay hike itself.
“We are extremely concerned that we seem to be forgotten in all of this,” Dave Wakely, president of OPSEU Local 277, the Peel Paramedic Union, said.
“Our members are upset. The government is acknowledging frontline workers, and then you found out that you are excluded from that acknowledgment. It just hurts.”
Wakely said he was just speaking to some paramedics on Monday morning who were working in long-term care homes helping to swab people, and at homeless shelters dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The provincial government is failing to acknowledge that we are frontline health-care workers and that is what is really concerning,” he said.
He said that he hopes the list was just a quickly made one, which the government will fine tune later on.
“We all understand that recognition is a big deal. We have seen unprecedented support from the public, but from the government we seem to have been hearing a different story,” he said.
The Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists also expressed disappointment on Monday about the announcement, and told CTV News Toronto that they too have been forgotten throughout the crisis.
“We are disappointed that pharmacists were not considered to be frontline workers … while we work really hard alongside all the other frontline workers,” Christina Adams, the society’s chief pharmacy officer said on Monday.
“We are happy to see frontline staff recognised but it’s just more that [others] were left out on the list.”
She said pharmacists are in the frontlines at hospitals and long-term care homes visiting and providing care to patients struggling with COVID-19.
“The pharmacists are extremely disappointed to not be recognized, but it seems to be quite common throughout this pandemic,” Adams said.
She said in addition to delivering frontline care to patients and putting their lives on the line, pharmacists have also been significantly involved in managing a potential drug shortage.
In response to a request for comment on the issue by CTV News Toronto, the Ontario Ministry of Health said it is continuing to consult with its health-care partners on the payment plan.
“We’re grateful for the tireless work of our frontline health care workers and will continue to stand behind them as we respond collectively to the COVID-19 outbreak,” a spokesperson for the ministry said.
“We’re continuing to consult with our health care partners to address questions and determine who might meet the criteria for pandemic pay.”
The list also did not include other essential workers such as transit workers and staff at grocery stores, who continue to work on the frontlines during the pandemic.