Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this session, I'd planned to speak to a range of issues from tourism and business relief funding to mental health supports for residential school survivors and those experiencing addiction. However, I've spent most my time lately consumed with the healthcare crisis at Stanton; a crisis that this Cabinet appears to be characterizing as unavoidable.
However, according to the Local 11 union president, the UNW has been raising this concern to the department for at least 18 months now; concern about the low morale of Stanton personnel who have been experiencing increasing rates of burnout for years.
When asked last week, the Minister of Health stated that no other wards at the hospital were facing a similar situation to that of the OBS unit, which suddenly closed last Monday. However, over the weekend everything I read and heard directly from the nurses themselves shows that this is just not the case and more shutdowns are imminent.
One way nurses feel unappreciated has been the lack of GNWT acknowledgement of how COVID has changed the way they practice. Changes that include.
- Increased safety protocols and PPE requirements;
- Additional personal and patient testing; and,.
- Ever-changing travel and isolation rules that have required nurses to use their own leave after an exposure to COVID at work or after travel.
When the federal government provided money to the provinces and territories for COVID-related healthcare expenses, every other jurisdiction used that money to give frontline workers hazard pay or bonuses. BC and New Brunswick nurses got raises of $4 per hour; in Ontario it was $2 an hour; and in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and NFLD and Labrador, nurses received payments ranging from $800 to $2000. The Yukon, Nunavut, PEI, and Quebec offered retention or signing bonuses and increased nurses' pay. The NWT is the only province or territory in Canada where frontline staff have not received any pandemic or hazard pay. Our frontline workers deserve retroactive pandemic pay now.
NWT nurses' stress is not only due to the current COVID situation. For years, NWT nurses have been working in conditions not seen in southern hospitals including through the design, construction, and opening of our new hospital, which has experienced significant growing pains. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to finish my statement.
---Unanimous consent granted
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Nurses here have additional duties like an expectation to train and orient locums as well as to provide instruction and training to students and brand new nurses. Formal training is often inadequate with inexperienced nursing staff performing specialized duties that would require formalized training in the south.
Mr. Speaker, this is not acceptable. Our residents deserve nurses that are adequately compensated and at the top of their game, happy to be at work, not beaten down by years of poor treatment and disrespect. I will have questions for Minister responsible for Human Resources at the appropriate time.