Quebec to bring back COVID-bonuses for health-care workers

Quebec to bring back COVID-bonuses for health-care workers

As the province wades through the seventh wave of COVID-19, Quebec is set to bring back bonuses for health-care employees who work overtime starting on Friday, CTV News has confirmed.

Under the new measure, which hasn’t been formally announced, workers who do overtime will get double pay and the bonuses will last until Sept. 26. The move is intended to make working in the public health-care network more attractive amidst staffing shortages.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Health says the government is projecting the bonuses for nurses, orderlies and other workers in the health network will cost the province an estimated $49 million.

The major health-care unions will react to the Ministry of Health’s new incentive on Friday, the same day Quebec’s public health director is scheduled to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in the province.

Dr. Luc Boileau is set to address the media at 2 pm alongside Dr. Nicholas Brousseau, a specialist from Quebec’s public health institute, the INSPQ.

The so-called COVID-bonuses for health workers ended in mid-May as the number of hospitalizations plummeted and the overall situation in the province improved from the devastation of the initial Omicron wave, even though the unions demanded they remain in place to keep employees motivated amid widespread burnout from the pandemic. Bonuses of 4 and 8 per cent had previously been introduced for the extra workload.

Jessica Goldschleger, vice-president of the CSN union, said at the time that she feared an exodus of staff with the bonuses drying up, but the government had said the bonuses were always meant to be temporary.

“The biggest issue is our staff — we’re missing too much staff, we need to attract people into the system,” said Goldschleger in an interview in May.

“Right now, private services are much more interesting to the staff, so people are moving out of the health-care system and that’s an issue.”

The return of the bonuses now comes in the middle of vacation season and amid more absences of health-care workers due to COVID-related reasons. On Wednesday, the province said 7,211 workers were away for reasons that included isolation and waiting for results from a PCR test. The number of missing workers has increased by nearly 1,000 since the beginning of the month.

Hospitalizations related to the coronavirus also surpassed 2,000 on Wednesday, including 57 in the intensive care units.