Friday, July 12, 2024
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Four Pontiac hospital techs apply for Gatineau jobs

News follows exclusion of staff at Pontiac, Wakefield hospitals from Outaouais bonuses

Four of the six full-time medical imaging technicians working in the Pontiac have applied to better paying jobs in Gatineau, while a fifth has possibly applied to a position in Ontario, a spokesperson for Outaouais’ healthcare network (CISSSO) confirmed in an email to THE EQUITY on Monday afternoon.
The news of these potential departures comes less than a week after the Quebec government extended bonuses and temporarily higher salaries to medical imaging staff in Maniwaki and Papineau hospitals, but not to those in Shawville and Wakefield hospitals, or the CLSC in Saint-André-Avellin.
The temporary financial incentives were first offered only to technicians at Hull and Gatineau hospitals in an effort to entice them to stay in their jobs rather than take higher paying positions in Ontario, but the technicians left anyway.
Meanwhile, elected officials in Outaouais’ rural communities expressed concern this policy would cause an exodus of technicians to the region’s urban hospitals where the pay was better, so the CAQ government extended these financial incentives to only two of four rural hospitals.
The decision sparked outrage in the Pontiac when it was announced last week. Politicians and healthcare workers warned the second exclusion would only intensify the competition the Pontiac Hospital faces when it comes to retaining staff.
At a press conference outside the Pontiac Hospital on Thursday, Pontiac MNA André Fortin echoed this fear.
“They’re in the process of repeating exactly the same mistake they made last month,” Fortin, also health critic for the official opposition, told reporters in French, accusing the CAQ government of failing to recognize the particular needs of the Pontiac region.
He noted one of Pontiac’s technicians lives in Aylmer, while another lives in Chapeau, and that they now both have higher paying positions much closer to their homes.
“It’s almost like they want to lose workers, and then react, and then justify the increase,” Fortin said. “They’re doing things backwards. It would be so much easier to fix it now, before people take the hard decision to leave.”
Fortin said extending the financial incentives to workers at the Pontiac Hospital would cost about $150,000.
“To a government, that’s nothing.”
“I’m not surprised. It’s only taken three days and this is already the movement, as expected,” MRC Pontiac warden Jane Toller told THE EQUITY Monday evening.
“I think that when people are not treated fairly [ . . . ] there’s no good reason why they should have to feel loyal any longer. We need to have the bonuses given before anybody leaves, because once they leave, we’re not going to be able to get them back.”
The Pontiac region shares six full-time imaging technicians between the Pontiac Hospital and the CLSC in Fort Coulonge, and two retired technicians help out part-time. Together, they are responsible for x-rays, ultrasounds, and other forms of medical imaging critical to most healthcare treatment.
If the five technicians succeed in their applications, the Pontiac region would be left with a single full-time staff member.
Toller and the region’s other wardens had two meetings with Minister of Health Christian Dubé in the week prior to the expansion of the bonuses and following both of them, she said she was assured by the minister that bonuses would be extended to all of the Outaouais.
She called last week’s agreement a “slap in the face.”
“Because we have loyal employees [ . . . ] I think at the last minute [the goverment] decided, ‘Oh, it’s not as much of a crisis,’ and their solution is they’re going to monitor the situation,” Toller said. “Well, this is unacceptable. We are not going to stand here and watch a crisis result.”
This Monday, the Outaouais’ four wardens and the newly elected mayor of Gatineau published an open letter demanding the Quebec government “offer fair and equitable bonuses to all medical imaging technologists in the Outaouais region.”
Toller said the MRC will also move a resolution to the same effect at its monthly Council of Mayors meeting this Wednesday, June 19.
THE EQUITY asked the health ministry for clarity on why the bonuses were extended to some hospitals and not others, but did not receive a response before publication deadline.
However, in a recent article from Le Droit, Minister responsible for the Outaouais, Mathieu Lacombe, suggested the exclusion had something to do with a hospital’s distance from Ottawa.

“The further away we are from Ottawa, the less temptation there is for employees,” he said in French. “Consequently, in Hull, Gatineau and Buckingham, we had to have a bonus that reached a maximum level.”
A ‘temporary’ and ‘incomplete’ fix
Under the new, two-year agreement announced last week, technicians at the Papineau Hospital will receive a $22,000 bonus and those in Maniwaki will receive an $18,000 bonus.
All technicians at those hospitals will also receive a 10 per cent salary increase for the summer period, granted staff commit to working an additional 2.5 hours every week.
Guylaine Laroche is the Outaouais president of l’Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS), the union representing imaging technicians in the region.
“The agreement we have now is a step in the right direction but it is clearly not sufficient,” she said in French.
She warned of the significant risk that technicians who weren’t offered bonuses move to hospitals where the bonuses are in place.
But she also said the temporary measures are insufficient in addressing the larger staffing shortage that has been plaguing the Outaouais’ healthcare network for years, both because they are temporary, and don’t include all radiology workers in the region.
Fortin also took issue with the premise of offering a bonus as a solution to the network-wide staffing shortages.
“It’s temporary, it’s incomplete, it’s not a measure that is efficient. What we need are salaries that are on par with Ontario,” he said.
Statistics provided by CISSSO show that the number of radiology technicians employed by the healthcare organization dropped from 122 in 2019 to 102 in 2024. Over the same time period, the number of nurses working for CISSSO dropped from 1984 to 1827 across the organization.
“This has been happening for a decade now, but now, we need to stop that,” said Jean Pigeon, spokesperson for recently formed healthcare advocacy group SOS Outaouais, at a second press conference at the Pontiac Hospital on Friday morning.
“We need to have permanent measures. We need to stop the flow of our healthcare staff that are moving away.”
The press conference, organized by local healthcare advocacy group Pontiac Voice, was attended by several leaders from Pontiac’s health network, including Pontiac Voice representative Josey Bouchard, Jennifer Larose, president of the CISSSO user committee and Anne Amyotte, president of the CLSC foundation.
Also in attendance was Sophie Pieshke, a radiologist currently on maternity leave. She worked at the Pontiac Hospital 10 years ago, and built her home in Shawville with the hope of returning to work at the hospital once her leave is up.
But on Friday she said she may have to reconsider.
“As much as my heart is at this hospital, my profession is medical imaging technician. I love my work, but with these working conditions, I have to ask myself what I’m going to do. Do I return to this hospital, or do I want to go somewhere else,” Pieshke said in French.

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