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Hundreds of Quebec’s nurses quit their jobs in first 6 months of the pandemic

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As Quebec braces for a second wave of COVID-19 cases, the province’s health-care system has lost hundreds of nurses who have quit the profession in the past six months.

A Radio-Canada analysis has found that more than 1,700 nurses working for 13 of the province’s regional health boards left their jobs between mid-March and August. That’s compared to around 1,300 during the same period in 2019. 

At least 11 of those establishments saw more nurses leave their jobs compared to the same period last year. 

The CISSS Laval saw a 52-per-cent increase in nurses who left their jobs. For the CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, that number is 17 per cent. At the CIUSSS Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec, 247 nurses left their jobs, an increase of 72 per cent.

Quebec Premier François Legault says he is aware there’s a problem.

“It takes three years to train nurses,” Legault said. He says the recruitment issues that existed before the pandemic are a persistent problem.

He pointed out that in the coming weeks, thousands of new patient attendants who were recruited and trained over the summer to work in long-term care homes will start their jobs. 

A toll on mental health

Monika Grzes left her job as a nurse in May after she started working in a long-term care facility — CHSLD Herron, where more than 50 patients died of COVID-19. 

Until March, she had spent her career working in schools. Grzes said she was not prepared for what she saw. 

“When I got home my children asked me, ‘What are you doing, why do you cry, mom?’ I told them, ‘Well, I had a difficult day,'” Grzes said.

“In those two months I saw 25 people, maybe 35 people, die.”

Monika Grzes quit her job as a nurse in May after working in a long-term care facility — CHSLD Herron, where more than 50 patients died of COVID-19 — at the height of the first wave. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

After 20 years as a nurse, Grzes quit the profession. 

She says she still loves nursing, but after her experience this spring, there’s no guarantee she’ll ever go back.

Work-family balance and improving nurse-patient ratios are among the topics being discussed in the government’s collective bargaining with health-care unions. 

Efforts to hire nurses continue

While the number of nurses leaving the profession has grown, the province’s regional health boards say they are working to make up for the departing staff.

At the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, where there has been an increase in departures, hiring has also gone up. 

“We are working to upgrade part-time positions to full-time positions,” said spokesperson Émilie Jacob. “We are convinced that this will have very positive repercussions on the stability of the workforce, making it possible to strengthen our health-care teams and reduce travel between our various facilities.”

At the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, spokesperson Carl Thériault said the higher number of departures in 2020 is due to nurses who temporarily came in to lend a hand last spring. The CIUSSS also hired 470 auxiliary nurses, for a net gain of 280 employees.

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Jobless rate tumbles as Mass. employers add jobs in August – News – southcoasttoday.com

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Massachusetts employers reported adding 51,600 jobs in August, while the statewide unemployment rate dropped nearly 5 percentage points, bucking a two-month trend of the Bay State bearing the highest jobless rate in the country.

New preliminary jobs data released Friday by federal and state officials showed month-over-month improvement through the late summer amid the economic chaos wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate dropped from a revised rate of 16.2 percent in July to 11.3 percent in August, officials said. That 4.9 percentage point change was the largest decrease in the country.

Despite the improvement, Massachusetts still lagged behind the national unemployment rate of 8.4 percent last month. After reporting the highest unemployment rate nationwide in both June and July, Massachusetts tied with New Mexico in August for the sixth-highest rate among all states and the District of Columbia.

Almost all of the 51,600 positions added in August came in the private sector, according to data from the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The largest gains occurred in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and trade, transportation and utilities, while only one of the industry groups tracked, financial activities, reported losses in August.

Monthly unemployment and jobs data are based on two separate surveys. The unemployment rate comes from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics survey of households, which also produces an estimate of total employment, total unemployment and the size of the labor force. Jobs gained and industry-specific figures come from a survey of employers known as the Current Employment Statistics program.

The labor force household survey estimated total employment in Massachusetts to be 3.14 million in August, with 65,500 more people employed than in July. According to that series, the state has added back about 290,000 jobs of the more than 870,000 jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the employer survey estimated Massachusetts had 3.29 million nonfarm employees in August, 51,600 more than last month. Under that data series, the Bay State has gained back 272,000 of about 690,000 jobs lost.

Officials used figures from both programs in Friday’s release. The state labor office cited 51,600 jobs gained based on the employer survey and also said that total August employment was 3.14 million based on the household survey.

Through July, the economic damage from the pandemic had been felt more acutely in cities and in communities of color. Eight of the 10 communities with the highest unemployment rates in July have majority nonwhite populations.

August job gains, which are critical to the tens of thousands of workers affected and to the state’s overall recovery, come as Beacon Hill tries to figure out how to address key budget uncertainties. Lawmakers may need to make tough decisions on whether to impose tax hikes or scale back state services amid the economic jolt.

Tax collections have fared better than projected at the beginning of the crisis, but Sen. Michael Rodrigues — his chamber’s top budget official — said this week that he expects revenues to drop $5 billion below last year. The state will likely need to dip “deeply” into its $3.5 billion emergency savings fund without additional federal aid, Rodrigues said.

Senate President Karen Spilka, meanwhile, said Friday that she is optimistic another federal relief package will come from Congress.

Another key question the Legislature will need to answer is whether to step in and relieve businesses from an impending hike in the taxes they pay toward unemployment insurance.

Due to the unprecedented surge in joblessness, the Baker administration projects that the unemployment insurance trust fund will end 2020 nearly $2.5 billion in the red, triggering an increase of almost 60 percent in the per-employee contribution employers pay.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who co-chairs the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, said last month that she believes the Legislature will seek a rate freeze but needs federal assistance to make such a move possible.

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State budget cuts to impact GJSD | News, Sports, Jobs

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JOHNSTOWN — A 20 percent state aid reduction for the Greater Johnstown School District could result in a nearly $5 million gap in the district’s budget by the end of the 2020-21 school year.

That scenario, which officials say might result in layoffs, was presented by district administrators to the Board of Education Thursday night.

But district officials say the city school system might be able to sustained half as much of a reduction in state aid, without layoffs.

District Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan and Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook reported to the board that the Johnstown school district still doesn’t have a true grasp of how much aid may be cut. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously said publicly that a 20 percent reduction in state aid to school districts might be in the offing.

Geelan said the district has heard of immediate state aid cuts, which results in an $89,000 shortfall. She said that would have been able to pay for 255 Chromebooks for remote learning for district students.

But Geelan said a further analysis shows that if a 20 percent state aid reduction comes to fruition over the next six months, the Johnstown district budget will have a $4.8 million hole by year’s end.

The district has just come through two full years of budget uncertainty and is now dealing with COVID.

On July 28, district voters approved a $38.9 million 2020-21 district budget in a revote, which had a 5 tax levy increase. The district is in a three-year financial plan and has hoped to keep taxes down again for the next school year’s budget.

The tax levy increase of 5 percent exceeded the statutory levy increase of negative 2.02 percent for the 2020-21 school fiscal year and therefore exceeded the state tax cap. If the revote had failed, the district would have had to a contingency budget. The previous school year, district voters eventually approved a budget with a 14 percent tax levy hike, but athletics was eliminated. Athletics was restored for this school year.

Cook noted media outlets are now saying the state may not impose a 20 percent state aid cut on school districts. But she said if the computation was lower — or about 10 percent — the district would be able to sustain the financial blow without layoffs.

“We should be able to avoid these things,” Cook said.

In that scenario, Geelan said the district has “got it covered.”

Cook said the district estimated it can use fund balance and some reserves — under certain guidelines– to offset a lesser state aid reduction nearly half as much as 20 percent.

She said the state comptroller is telling school districts that during the pandemic they can borrow from their own reserves and pay themselves back. She said the district has applied for CARES Act money, for which it may be eligible for up to $420,000. In addition, she said the district may be able to use unassigned fund balance to bridge gaps.

Cook said that like other school districts, Johnstown faces uncertainty moving ahead. To meet the issue of a huge reduction in state aid, she said the district may have to do three main things: “underspending” the budget, make reductions, and utilizing reserves.

“The financial effects of this pandemic cook be three to five years,” Cook said.

Geelan said that whatever happens on the state aid front, the district should not abandon its prudent financial plan.

“It really is important to stick with that critical mission,” she said.

She sad the district is going to realize some savings through athletics not played initially, but some sports weren’t canceled but rather postponed.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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‘10,000 jobs at risk’ if Sizewell C not approved

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Some 10,000 jobs are at risk if the government does not approve the Sizewell C nuclear power station, a group has warned.

The Sizewell C Coalition, which is made up of around 100 organisations including companies like Mace, Laing O’Rourke and Bam Nuttall, said up to 10,000 specialist construction and engineering jobs are at risk if the EDF plant is not given the go-ahead.

Analysis released by the group found a quarter to a third of jobs could be at risk across the whole nuclear supply chain.

The warning comes days after Hitachi confirmed its withdrawal from the UK market and ended its work at the planned Wylfa and Oldbury plants.

Sizewell C Consortium spokesperson Cameron Gilmour said: “For the first time in a generation, the UK has developed a world-class nuclear construction and engineering supply chain. Without Sizewell C, we will not sustain it – and thousands of jobs could be lost as a result.

“This is not a viable option for Britain. Government needs to get on with giving the green light to Sizewell C.”

Sizewell C, a joint project of French energy company EDF and Chinese firm CGN, would be built on similar plans as Hinkley Point C, the firms’ project currently under construction in Somerset. An application for a development consent order was submitted for approval in May.

Unite national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said: “It is essential that a skills bridge is created from Hinkley Point, being constructed in Somerset, to Sizewell, to ensure that the skills and the knowledge that have been acquired on the initial project can be transferred to Sizewell and are not lost to the country’s skill base.”

He added: “Unite repeats its call to business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Alok Sharma to bring forward the long-awaited energy White Paper. This will guarantee that nuclear power is a vital part of the energy ‘mix’ in the years ahead, creating a source of ‘clean’ and reliable electricity, as well as a new generation of skilled ‘green’ employment.”

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