Aspiring health-care workers left in financial limbo after Quebec delays promised grants

Guy McLean and Tiffany Cooper, West Island Career Centre students, say the payment delay has created financial hardship. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)
Guy McLean and Tiffany Cooper, West Island Career Centre students, say the payment delay has created financial hardship. (Matt D'Amours/CBC - image credit)

Quebec promised would-be health-care workers $12,000 in grants if they enrolled in an accelerated training program, but students in Montreal's West Island say they have yet to see a dime.

In an effort to combat the province's health-care labour shortage, the training program was announced earlier this year. The aim was to have 1,000 home-care workers join the workforce by this fall along with a wave of new orderlies.

Students at the West Island Career Centre were told they could expect the first $4,000 within the first few weeks of training. Six weeks have already gone by.

They told CBC News that, after the first deadline passed, they were assured payment would arrive a week later. That new deadline passed without payment, and the delay has left them in a lurch.

Tiffany Cooper was laid off from her logistics job in January, and saw the orderly training program as an opportunity to get into a long-term career that she feels suits her well.

She stopped receiving her employment insurance payments to start training, and she's not alone, she said. Fellow students gave up jobs and opportunities as well with hopes of aiding the ailing health-care system, but "we can't help anybody else if we can't first take care of ourselves," she said.

'Strung along'

Cooper said her partner has been trying to cover expenses in the interim, but it's hard these days to live on two salaries, let alone one.

"It's getting to the point where it's now becoming a struggle to put food on the table," Cooper said.

"I'm still holding onto hope. I do still think they will eventually pay us. I am just more upset about being strung along and given false information because, if not, I could have made other arrangements."

Guy McLean was in a job he didn't love when he heard about the training program. He has long been interested in getting into health care. The problem, he said, was finding time to take classes while working. The promised funds would have made it possible for him to fully dedicate himself to his studies, he said.

"I'm now tapping into credit cards or things I didn't want to touch," he said, and his financial concerns are interrupting his ability to focus on school.

The Lester B. Pearson School board, which runs the career centre, said in a statement that it isn't responsible for the payments, but the board reached out to the West Island health agency to expedite the process.

In a statement Tuesday, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal acknowledged the delay, saying it is attributable to technical and administrative issues.

The health agency says necessary measures are being taken to resolve these issues as soon as possible, and scholarship payments will be made Wednesday.

"We reaffirm our commitment to providing the necessary support to students undergoing training in our territory," the statement says.