Ontario nurses say retention incentive simply not enough

Apr 15, 2022 | Canadian News

The Ontario government’s announcement to provide nurses with a retention incentive of up to $5,000 has been met with backlash.

“We need more money, more benefits and definitely more respect” said registered practical nurse (RPN) and former Humber graduate Mylinh Tran.

The Ford government said the payments are supposed to help stabilize the current nursing workforce. However, the nursing shortage in Ontario was prevalent before the pandemic began.

The major concern among nurses and their associations, like the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, is Bill 124, which restricted pay increases to one per cent to employees who work at not-for-profits which receive at least $1 million in funding from the province.

“I left Ontario a few years ago to work in Manitoba because the compensation nurses received is better,” Tran said. “They’ll compensate you for school, they’ll pay you more and encourage you to move up the ladder.”

Tran told Humber News that some of the benefits she received in Manitoba included a $5,000 grant to help with moving expenses and she even qualified for $4,000 a year loan forgiveness to help with her student loans.

“They really listen to your needs,” Tran said. “If you ask for more training, the nursing association will give you more time to shadow a more experienced nurse, whereas the system in Ontario is quite different and limited.”

Former Humber graduate from the registered practical nurse program in 2016
Raymond Estrella, graduated from Humber’s registered practical nurse program in 2016. Photo credit: Raymond Estrella

Tran is currently working part-time and is eligible for the incentive in the form of a prorated payment of up to $5,000 that would be paid out in two installments.

Full-time nurses are eligible for a $5,000 lump sum payment.

The province’s retention incentive applies to nurses in direct patient care roles.

“Three years ago, I left the bedside care aspect of nursing and joined the corporate side,” said Raymond Estrella, a former Humber graduate of the RPN program.

Estrella said he got his practical experience at a hospital as part of his program at Humber but decided to try working in a retirement home and then a nursing home after graduation.

“The kind of work and the strain on my mental and physical health was not worth what RPNs get compensated for,” Estrella said.

Estrella said that while he was working as an RPN, he also completed the bridging year of his registered nurse (RN) program at Humber but he chose to not complete it because he said he felt the compensation for RNs was still not worth it.

“Even as the pandemic winds down, nurses in Ontario are still extremely undervalued, and you can see that in the $5,000 incentive,” Estrella said.

He said he now earns roughly the same amount as a newly registered nurse entering the workforce.

“It’s a bit ironic that I’m actually training a registered nurse for the job that I have because she left the bedside care aspect as well,” Estrella said.

The RNAO’s CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun said in a news release that RNAO welcomes the temporary retention payments as recognition of sacrifices and fatigue nurses have experienced during the pandemic.