Liberal government targets nursing shortage in Indigenous communities

The Trudeau government is investing about $800,000 to address nursing shortages in rural and remote Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu says chronic nursing shortages have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this investment is a start.

“It’s not one solution,” she told a virtual news conference. “It really is multiple solutions that will create a longer term, more stable health care workforce in particular.

“Today’s announcement is about recognizing how precious and valuable those services are in terms of remote communities and doing everything we can to help those people who have chosen to practice in remote communities and entice new people.”

The money will go towards recruitment and retention allowances – basically tripling what is already available.

Could earn more

This means a nurse could earn another $20,000 annually on top of his or her $80,000 average salary.

Indigenous Services employs about 840 nurses across the country to staff 50 remote communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec.

Leila Gillis, deputy chief nursing officer for the department, says there is a big gap to fill.

“We do have a significant vacancy rate right now,” she says. “We would need up to 150 nurses to fill the needs for our operations in the North.”

Gillis says it will take a coordinated federal and provincial approach to make a serious difference.

To examine

Jennifer Carr, president of the Public Service of Canada, says governments need to examine why so many nurses have chosen to stop practicing.

“I’m going to quote my friends over at ONA (Ontario Nurses Association),” she told reporters. “There are 15,000 registered nurses right now who are not practicing, and that has to be looked into because there are people who have left the profession because they have felt burnt out, stressed out, they’re not really feeling the love of the employer. And we really have to get to those root causes.”

The changes take effect Sept. 1 and runs until March 31, 2025 or a new collective agreement is reached.

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