Extra funds for nurses, police partly tied to abuse and trauma they suffer, finance minister says
The Government of Nunavut approved budget overages of $19.5 million for nurses across the territory and $1 million for the RCMP as the winter legislative assembly sitting wrapped up on March 12.
Finance Minister George Hickes explained that the high vacancy rate among nurses made it necessary to hire more casual and agency health staff, which came at a higher price.
“We can’t function at 50 per cent capacity, so we are forced to use outside services, but in addition to that, the overtime is a huge cost pressure that we are really struggling with right now,” he said. “In my opinion, we have to take a look at the whole health centre staffing complement and that is one of the projects that I am going to be working on this year.”
Hickes also acknowledged that some nurses don’t stay in Nunavut because of the abuse they suffer from the public while on the job.
“I am going to be very blunt here, sometimes the perception of some communities to be — again going back to violence, the treatment of staff — it is a huge concern for us when we get reports from our medical professionals that they do not want to work in certain communities because of some of the practices that have been brought to them in threats or unacceptable behaviour,” said Hickes. “We all have a right to have a safe workplace. We all have a right to be able to voice our opinions in a professional manner. That is where I think the Office of Patient Relations has done an exceptional job to give people an avenue to bring forward concerns, but our retention is our biggest struggle.”
As for the RCMP, the additional $1 million covered overtime, emergency response teams for standoffs and prolonged medical leave for officers to deal with traumatic events.
“This message needs to get out across the board that the RCMP and the bylaw (officers) in communities, and any law enforcement and corrections staff, need to continue to work with community members, and community members need to work with law enforcement so that we can do better in this area from a public safety standpoint,” Hickes said.