B.C. nurses are calling out their professional college after it announced a 15 per cent increase to the workers' annual registration fees.
In December, the College of Nurses and Midwives announced that in 2023-2024, practising registered nurses will pay $600 in registration fees, a $78-increase from the previous year.
The college says the increase is necessary because of inflation, pandemic costs and the costs associated with an increase in complex investigations due to a higher number of complaints.
According to the B.C. Nurses Union, the increase amounts to nearly $4 million dollars in additional revenue for the college.
"This is just another burden on nurses who have already gone through so much," said president Aman Grewal. "They're just feeling very disrespected right now."
Grewal says including the liability insurance nurses must also purchase to practice, they'll be paying approximately $700 a year each to practice in their field.
'We're gonna keep struggling': nurse
Nearly 7,000 people have signed an online petition asking the college to "stop price gouging B.C. nurses."
CBC News spoke to two nurses who questioned the fee hike and the college's accountability. They did not want to have their names published because they feared retaliation from the college and jeopardizing their careers.
"It's demotivating. This is why the retention is bad," said one nurse who works in Vancouver. "We're gonna keep struggling if nursing staff are not appreciated and feeling like they're always receiving the short end."
Another nurse who has worked across the Tri-Cities for close to 40 years wonders why fees are so high for B.C. nurses when in Ontario, annual licensing fees are set at $305.
Union requests meeting with college
Grewal has sent a letter to Yvonne Savard, the chair of the college's board responsible for approving the increase, to request a meeting "to better understand the justification for such a staggering increase."
On its website, the college also justified the fee increase because of the amalgamation of the four colleges representing four professions that are now represented by the College of Nurses and Midwives: licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and midwives.
"B.C. CNM continues to transition policies, processes and IT systems to support the amalgamation of four colleges," reads the college's website. "This work will increase our long-term efficiency and effectiveness for nurses, midwives, the public accessing our systems, and our teams."
"If you've amalgamated the four colleges, the fees should actually go down because your administrative costs et cetera should be going down if you're going from four to one," said Grewal. "So it just does not make sense."
CBC News emailed Savard requesting an interview about the fee increase but was instead directed to the college's communications department, which then indicated that no one from the college was available for an interview.
New legislation to regulate professional colleges
The Ministry of Health, which governs professional regulation in the province through the Health Professions Act, said in an emailed statement that the college is "an independent not-for-profit health regulatory college that exists to protect the public."
"Fees are set by the B.C. CNM Board based on the estimated cost of regulation for the coming year," reads the statement. "Registration fees for nurses and midwives reflect the cost of regulation. A financial audit of the cost to regulate the professions is performed annually."
In October, Health Minister Adrian Dix tabled the Health Professions and Occupations Act to replace the Health Professions Act.
According to a backgrounder from the province, a new oversight body will do routine audits of the colleges and have the power to investigate them if necessary. This body will also set standards for policies and practices.