From left, Health Minister Tom Osborne, Premier Andrew Furey and Registered Nurses Union president Yvette Coffey announce incentives for nurses Tuesday at the Confederation Building in St. John’s.Image frrom Facebook

‘You just can’t knit a nurse’

Original Published on Aug 03, 2022 at 05:40

By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is putting its money where its mouth is in an attempt to solve a long-standing shortage of nurses in the province.

Premier Andrew Furey and Health Minister Tom Osborne were joined by Registered Nurses Union president Yvette Coffey Tuesday, Aug. 2, in announcing everything from retention and signing bonuses to mental-health and childcare supports.

“We all understand that there’s a recruitment and retention issue globally. Every province in Canada, there are media stories almost every day on this issue,” Osborne told reporters. “But we need to get better and more focused and more competitive in recruitment and retention, and the initiatives … that we’re announcing today go a long way in doing that.”

Coffey said the province currently has 615 nurse vacancies, and that a further 900 nurses are eligible to retire.

“We all hear the stories every day — nurses walking away, patients waiting for surgeries and procedures, backlogs in emergency departments,” she said. “Our hope is that this will give hope to our members and to the public.”

The task seems almost insurmountable, given a Statistics Canada survey released in June that suggests 43 per cent of nurses just starting out in their career are thinking of quitting their jobs. Even with those 10 or more years in the field, 31 per cent expressed similar intentions.

“You just can’t knit a nurse or a doctor overnight,” Furey said. “That will take time.”

Mainly money

The initiatives include:

•  a retention bonus is available to unionized nurses and nurse practitioners for a minimum of a one-year return-in-service commitment, available until Oct. 31, 2022;

• a signing bonus for casual registered nurses to incentivize them to accept a full-time or part-time position in an “area of need” as defined by the regional health authority with an associated return-in-service of one year minimum, also available until Oct. 31, 2022

•  double overtime for vacation period to support shifts being filled in advance to increase the ability of the regional health authorities to grant annual leave for nurses and practitioners until Oct. 31, 2022;

• reimburse the $500 licensing fees and liability insurance for retired nurses who wish to return to work for a designated period, available until Oct. 31, 2022;

• a registered nurse locum premium to support work in select locum positions in Labrador-Grenfell Health;

• 24-7 mental-health supports;

• a promise to explore childcare options for nurses who work non-standard hours; and

• bursaries for third-year students in bachelor of science in nursing.

Osborne would not put a dollar figure on the proposals in fairness to other health-care workers with whom the government is still in discussions on similar measures.

“Once we have the full package, which I anticipate will be very soon, we will have a more fulsome number,” he said.

The suite of measures stem from a think tank the government held with nurses in April. Coffey said the idea is to offer some hope for the future, although she admits the measures are only a first step.

“We still have a ways ago,” she said.

She added that the impact of the initiatives will be assessed at the end of the year.

More needed

NDP Interim Leader Jim Dinn said Tuesday he’s encouraged to see the announced financial measures and the continuing dialogue with nurses.

“This is something that should have been addressed a long time ago,” he said.

But Dinn said throwing money at the problem is not going to solve the shortages in the long term.

“In the end, there’s going to have to be something there to address why nurses are leaving a permanent position and moving into casual. Why would they choose that over a permanent position?” he asked.

“In speaking to nurses, it comes down to an inability to achieve a meaningful work-life balance that allows them to look after their patients properly and also to address their own personal needs.”

He said the boosted overtime pay is fine, but it’s not the ultimate solution.

“After awhile, paying people is not what they’re looking for,” he said.

“They want to have some control over their lives so they can have that balance.”

Original Published on Aug 02, 2022 at 11:50

Young adults sharing homes small, but growing fast

By Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Soon after he got a job as a furniture salesperson earlier this year, Jack Hall moved out of his parents’ house, to which the 27-year-old had returned at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and into a shared townhouse in Burlington, Ont., with two other young men.

But having given up on the prospect of buying property in the Toronto area and struggling to save money even with his frugal lifestyle, Hall is now looking to leave the country entirely.

“I’ve actually been talking to my father, who’s got contacts in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, and I’m thinking of just straight-up leaving the country because it’s become unviable for people my age,” he said. “Not unviable, like we can live here, but it’s worthless to live here.”

Hall is part of a growing trend of people living in shared accommodation, with the number of households composed of roommates — defined as two or more people living together who are not partners, children, parents or grandparents to each other — growing by 54 per cent from 2001 to 2021, according to census data released by Statistics Canada last month.

The portion of all Canadians living in such arrangements is still small — the more than 660,000 such households account for just four per cent of the national total. But when it comes to the living situation of 20- to 34-year-olds, shared accommodation makes up 15 per cent of the total, up from 11 per cent in 2011.

Young adults live with roommates for financial support because of a lack of affordable alternative housing options either by choice, for companionship and emotional support or for other reasons, the statistics agency said.

It’s certainly a financial decision for Hall, who says he has little left at the end of each month and dips back into debt when unexpected expenses arise.

“The cost of gas, car insurance, groceries, rent, utilities, internet, cellphone bill, tenant’s insurance, it spreads my paycheque pretty thin,” he said. “But if I’m careful and just keep an eye on expenses, hopefully I can keep my head above water, but, you know, it’s been going above and below the water back and forth for two years now.”

The jump in prices for food, fuel, transport and a range of other basic and discretionary goods this year has put further strain on Hall’s budget and forced him to cut back on consumption.

That means not accepting every invitation to go out, he said, since “the cost of alcohol out there is a completely unessential expense,” barely eating meat at all and buying and eating less food overall.

“With groceries, I’ve just started eating less, preparing what meals I need to be healthy but not buying a whole bunch of stuff,” he said, adding that often means just eggs, bread and fruit.

Hall says he knows that there are many people facing tougher circumstances than his own, but he is frustrated that politicians talk a lot about addressing the problems of affordability without taking steps to fix them.

“I’m talking to a generation of people who don’t care.”

This item reprinted with permission from The Telegram, St. John’s, Newfoundland