Nurses in N.L. are quitting in droves, and a $3K signing bonus will do little to stop them, union says
The head of Newfoundland and Labrador's nurses' union says throwing bonuses at nurses to stay in their positions isn't enough to overcome the systemic problems pushing them to quit.
A staffing crunch in long-term care homes prompted the provincial government earlier this week to offer extra cash to nurses who remain in, or are hired into, nursing positions at old age facilities.
The provincial Department of Health announced Monday it's offering up to $3,000 as a retention bonus for nurses who remain in their position for a year, and up to $8,000 for new recruits.
That's little more than chump change for the head of the nurses' union, who says mandatory overtime and comparatively low pay has led to a spike in nursing vacancies.
"It does fall short. Very short," said Yvette Coffey, president of the province's Registered Nurses' Union.
"We can't afford to keep bleeding out registered nurses out of our health-care system. We will never get to the backlog of surgeries … and we're certainly not going to see any reprieve for the emergency departments."
Coffey says nurses are frustrated with the provincial government for what they say is a lack of attention to a retention strategy that would relieve them of required overtime, lack of vacation and difficult working conditions.
They're also tired of working alongside nurses employed by private agencies, who often earn more to do the same job.
She said offering current nurses less money than new recruits only cements the discontent that's pushing nurses to their limits.
"We are never going to keep them if we don't offer them incentives to stay," Coffey said.
A senior health official told reporters this week that there are currently hundreds of nursing position vacancies in long-term care across the province.
Bonus amounts came after consultations with union: Osborne
Health Minister Tom Osborne defended the bonus discrepancy Thursday, however, saying recruitment offers are typically higher than retention bonuses.
The $8,000 signing offer is also geared toward new graduates, he said — an enticement to enter long-term care nursing, which Osborne says is generally less popular among new nurses.
More recruitment, he added, will help with workload issues straining the current workforce.
The health minister said the amounts were arrived at after conversations with the union. The department is putting a "great deal of effort" into improving staffing shortages, he said.
A temporary offer last year to pay nurses double their normal overtime rate was intended to bridge some of the gap between publicly employed nurse salaries and those of private agency hires, he said.