I'm glad for the health care workers who will benefit from this but totally miffed that only a segregated few, out of the many who have risked their safety, will be recognized.
From the Toronto Star
SARS workers' pay to double
Deal would pay full-time nurses roughly what temps are paid
The Ontario government will cover the cost of doubling pay for health-care workers on SARS duty at four Toronto hospitals, Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement said today.
Clement said the government supports the move to increase compensation for front-line workers but did not endorse requests from other health workers in hospitals dealing with severe acute respiratory system that they also get more money.
"There's a lot of pressure right now," said Clement.
"(But) if you're saying that the solution to SARS is to pay everyone double in the system, that isn't the solution."
Clement said the four hospitals, which have formed an alliance to combat the SARS outbreak, are a "special case."
"That has to be recognized as such and that has to be remunerated as such."
Nurses combating SARS have been particularly unhappy that agency temps brought in to help in the fight are being paid at a premium.
The new hospital deal would pay nurses at the top end of the salary scale about $66 an hour, roughly what the temporary nurses are being paid.
"I'd rather have a full-time nurse than an agency nurse," said Clement.
X-ray technicians and other staff who work with SARS patients or in SARS screening will also get the premium.
The Ontario Nurses Association says the extra money is welcome but wants it paid to all nurses at risk of contracting SARS at work, even if they aren't working directly with SARS cases.
The four hospitals are Scarborough General, North York General, St. Michael's and the Etobicoke site of William Osler Health Centre.
All are part of a new alliance formed to handle the bulk of SARS cases in the new cluster discovered late last month.
Clement's comments came as nurses gathered at Scarborough General to protest the province's handling of the outbreak. They have previously expressed concerns that they have not been adequately protected from contracting the illness.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton, who attended the rally, said he will introduce a private member's bill in the provincial legislature in an effort to initiate a public inquiry into how Ontario has responded to SARS.
"The refusal of the government to hold a public inquiry says to me that this is a government that has something to hide," Hampton said.
The health workers want the province to implement a standardized system at hospitals provincewide to better protect them from infectious disease.
Hampton said the government acted prematurely in promoting tourism and business following the economic fallout from the first outbreak of SARS and should have focused on harnessing the disease while protecting health-care workers.
"The government let its guard down and the government doesn't want the public to know it," Hampton said.
"We need a full, open and independent public inquiry that provides health-care workers with whistle-blower protection-that's exactly what my bill prescribes."
Ontario Premier Ernie Eves has promised a review but will not commit to a full-scale public inquiry.
In an open letter to health-care workers today, Clement acknowledged their safety concerns.
"We are taking appropriate steps to help prevent the spread of SARS and other infectious diseases," he said.
Clement also praised their dedication, but reminded them of their No.1 priority: "While I know how hard it is sometimes, our patients must remain our priority."