Councillor McCormack speaks out against Bill 124, calls for nurses to be treated equal

Greater Napanee town council continues to meet virtually, holding Zoom meetings while broadcasting them to the public via the town's YouTube channel.

Adam Prudhomme

Greater Napanee councillor John McCormack is voicing his opposition to Ontario’s Bill 124, which limits wage increases for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and health care professionals.

McCormack has penned an open letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford as well as Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

He presented the letter during council’s June 8 meeting, which drew support for his fellow councillors.

“I’ve been hearing a lot recently in the news about the plight of nurses during this pandemic and how unfairly they’ve been treated with regards to their compensation compared to other frontline workers and first responders such as police, firefighters and paramedics,” reads McCormack’s letter. “In 2019, the provincial government introduced and passed Bill 124, wage suppression legislation negatively impacting registered nurses, nurse practitioners and health care professionals. The Bill limits wage increases to a maximum of one percent total compensation for three years. Throughout the past 14 months – and counting! – of this pandemic, health-care workers – especially nurses — across Ontario have cared for the citizens of Ontario while confronting fears for their own health and safety and that of their loved ones. They are exhausted. They are burnt out. Bill 124 forcibly suppresses the compensation of the very health-care workers that our provincial government calls “heroes.”

The letter goes on to say a registered nurse with 25 years of experience receives a rate of $48.53 an hour regardless of where they work, compared to a nurse with five years experience who would earn $40.19.

“In an April 2020 memo, which was obtained by CTV News Toronto, officials say the payment structure “will allow for a more flexible response for physician services to the anticipated levels of patient care that will be required during surge state volume”. According to the pay scale, a physician deployed to the ICU between 7 a.m. and midnight will receive $385 an hour, or $450 an hour for the midnight to 7 a.m. shift. Someone in Ward Care could get $250 an hour from 7 a.m. to midnight while administrative non-clinical assignments are given the price tag of $165 an hour,” McCormack wrote.

He went on to request council support him in asking that the province make changes to Bill 124 and ‘allow nurses to be treated fairly and equally with our other frontline workers.’

“I can’t help but support something like this,” said Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser. “I think the letter as Mr. McCormack has written it and the points express herein, there’s some stark numbers there and I think it’s appropriate. Especially at this time.”

Mayor Marg Isbester agreed, saying they need to speak up not only for current nurses, but the future generation as well.

“Already the universities that have the Bachelor of Nursing Science are saying that their applications are down almost 40 per cent,” said Isbester. “That’s a pretty tough number. You look at some of the nurses that have worked through this, and I think they’ve doubly and triply aged and I say that with all due respect.”

Councillor Terry Richardson agreed.

“The nurses’ work has only just begun with COVID,” he said. “The fall out with the medical requirement that are going to be needed for things that were put on the back burner the last year and a half is going to be unfathomable. When we suggest that COVID’s over and life’s going to go back to normal, it will for a lot of us. It’s not going to for the medical profession. We just have to keep that in mind so I think this (letter) is a good idea.”

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