"Yesterday’s healthcare stabilization announcement by Premier King adds to his ever-growing list of delayed and poorly thought-out programs and initiatives.
"To begin, this should have been thought out better. Before our system hit rock bottom, and before Health PEI handed out gift bags with flashlights, lavender seeds, and chocolate-covered potato chips to thank their employees for working through COVID.
"You simply cannot group together a program that thanks staff for working during COVID, aims to retain them due to the current poor working conditions, while also incentivizing those who are retiring to stay longer to help our staffing levels. These are three separate issues with three separate timelines of when and how they occurred. In turn, this approach devalues all three.
"This announcement came out of desperation. Stabilization should have occurred long before our system was struggling to provide the bare minimum of service like it is now.
"Second, when providing bonuses to a work environment and organization described as unsupportive, toxic, understaffed and having poor leadership, creating a structure that gives one profession a different bonus than another is not going to help change that perspective and only creates further division.
"Additionally, there are many more professionals that make up “the front-lines” who were left out altogether. What about the environmental service staff, food service workers, ward clerks/receptionists, respiratory, physio, and occupational therapists, and all other allied health professionals? What about those who are in casual positions? Or the retired workers who came back to support our COVID-19 response? All of these individuals have been asked to do more with less resources over the last three years.
"All employees play a key role in healthcare delivery to Islanders – no one employee of Health PEI is more important than the next. Our party has long called for retention incentives for healthcare workers, but not like this. Not in a way that excludes and decreases the unique value that all health professionals and support staff provide to our system.
"Lastly, and most important, this announcement will not improve services or attract more employees as money alone is not going to solve the fundamental problems in our healthcare system. While this is a step forward, the way it was introduced is also a step back."
Robert Henderson, MLA
O'Leary - Inverness