Labour shortages in the health-care sector are not limited to nurses, according to the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et services sociaux (APTS).
The union, which represents approximately 60,000 professional and technical staff — like medical imaging technologists, lab technicians and social workers — says its members feel overlooked by the government, which just announced bonuses up to $18,000 for nurses.
Incentives to attract and retain nurses will cost the Quebec government $1 billion in bonuses.
“In June, you told us you had no money and that it was over, that it was as far as you could go,” said Josée Fréchette, APTS vice-president, directing her comments towards Premier François Legault and Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel. “And now you’re finding money for other people?”
“There are shortages in everything in Quebec. We’re also bleeding techs to Ontario — the wages in Quebec presently are below the standard,” said Montreal medical imaging technologist Peter Gleeson.
Gleeson said despite the fact that COVID-19 patients need multiple X-rays — for instance, chest X-rays are essential for a doctor to make a diagnosis — he has not received any of the COVID-19 premiums offered to other health professionals.
The opposition Parti Québécois (PQ) accused the government of waiting until there’s a crisis before acting.
“In the spring, the first wave, we decided to train care orderlies in a flash and put all the energy towards it, not knowing or not paying attention to the fact that nurses were leaving,” said PQ MNA, Joël Arseneau.
Experts say a global plan to address structural and managerial problems in the network is needed.
“When you start cherry-picking for whom you’re going to raise the salaries and whom you’re not going to touch, of course you’re going to create some frustration,” said Paul Brunet, president of the Conseil pour la protection des malades.
McGill University professor Erin Strumpf said throwing money at the problem is not always the best solution.
“The health-care system is incredibly complex, there are a range of problems, and challenges, and it’s not even clear that the first most important challenge is that people are not being paid enough,” she said.
She said higher salaries won’t mean better patient care if working conditions aren’t improved.
“This idea that people are working multiple 16-hour shifts in a row, that can’t be good for patients,” she said.