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Former Health P.E.I. board chair criticizes government’s ‘divisive’ retention pay-outs



CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — A choice final fall by the King authorities to supply $8 million in retention bonuses for nurses and paramedics was made with out consulting the Well being P.E.I. board, and in opposition to the desires of the well being authority’s administration.

Talking earlier than P.E.I.’s standing committee on well being and social growth on Feb. 15, former Well being P.E.I. board chair Derek Key mentioned the money bonuses had been “divisive” and ran opposite to efforts by the board to enhance morale of well being employees.

Key, who resigned as board chair on Dec. 31, 2022, additionally mentioned the choice was a sign the premier had misplaced confidence in his management.

The bonuses had been introduced by Premier Dennis King in October 2022. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed sensible nurses, paramedics and registered care employees had been supplied 1000’s in trade for a one-year return in service settlement.

However the incentives prompted an outcry from different Well being P.E.I. employees that weren’t supplied the identical bonuses, comparable to physiotherapists, lab technicians and cleaners.

Former Health P.E.I. board chair Derek Key says a retention bonus offered to nurses and paramedics proved 'divisive' as it was not offered to other health-care staff. - Dave Stewart/SaltWire Network file
Former Well being P.E.I. board chair Derek Key says a retention bonus supplied to nurses and paramedics proved ‘divisive’ because it was not supplied to different health-care employees. – Dave Stewart/SaltWire Community file

Key mentioned the Well being P.E.I. board and senior management group had been making important efforts to enhance retention at Well being P.E.I. and to enhance well being employees retention for 2 years.

“Whereas we have made it abundantly clear that that is a precedence – the precedence – of the board, to have this incentive factor come out of nowhere made it notably difficult,” Key advised the committee.

Key mentioned, on the time, CEO Michael Gardam and the senior administration of Well being P.E.I. had been consulted. Their place was “the identical place that the board had, which was, essentially that you simply deal with all staff the identical,” Key mentioned.

“To have any third get together disrupt that, in a means that’s divisive, I discovered that notably unhelpful.”

“To have this incentive factor come out of nowhere made it notably difficult.” – Derek Key

Talking to reporters after the assembly, Key clarified that his determination to resign was not based mostly on the retention incentives alone. He mentioned the choice was a sign that King had both misplaced confidence or didn’t believe in his management.

“I assumed it was acceptable to depart and substitute me with somebody that that they had larger confidence in,” Key mentioned.

Key’s Dec. 31 resignation letter, which the Premier’s Workplace later launched to reporters, listed a number of suggestions he believed had been essential to keep away from failures in well being care.

These included making a tradition that supported “all staff, not just a few,” higher accountability measures, direct Well being P.E.I. management of the well being authority over hiring and higher entry to well being expertise.

The letter additionally known as for Well being P.E.I. to function as an arm’s size Crown company, unbiased from cupboard.

Key Resignation Letter by The Guardian

Political affect in well being care

The letter uncovered a long-simmering pressure between P.E.I.’s political management and Well being P.E.I.’s board.

Between 2020 and 2022, three different Well being P.E.I. board members resigned in frustration over what they described as political management over Well being P.E.I., which has slowed the well being authority’s capability to react to employees shortages.

Board members even have argued Well being P.E.I. ought to have extra management over hiring well being employees, in addition to HR planning.

Hiring is presently the accountability of the Public Service Fee whereas recruitment is the position of the Division of Well being and Wellness.

Talking earlier than the committee, Key made the case that politicians, Well being P.E.I.’s board and Well being P.E.I.’s administration ought to respect the bounds of their roles.

Former Health P.E.I. board chair Derek Key told a P.E.I. standing committee he found a decision by Premier Dennis King and the Department of Health to provide retention bonuses to nurses but not allied health workers to be 'unhelpful.' - Stu Neatby/SaltWire Network
Former Well being P.E.I. board chair Derek Key advised a P.E.I. standing committee he discovered a choice by Premier Dennis King and the Division of Well being to supply retention bonuses to nurses however not allied well being employees to be ‘unhelpful.’ – Stu Neatby/SaltWire Community

He used the analogy of knowledgeable hockey group, noting that an proprietor of a group hires coaches, managers and trainers. An proprietor normally doesn’t intrude in on-ice selections made by coaches, he mentioned.

“You’re going to finish up being the Montreal Canadiens. You’re going to be within the basement,” Key mentioned.

Key mentioned the province’s Well being Providers Act units out that the minister of well being has the accountability to set a method and a well being plan. The Well being P.E.I. board is meant to supervise the CEO of Well being P.E.I. whereas the CEO oversees each day operations.

However in apply, the minister of well being typically steps exterior of those boundaries, as voters look to them to make the system work.

Key was requested by Inexperienced Social gathering MLA Karla Bernard what wants to alter.

“If I used to be to offer you a listing, it will begin with confidence. The minister and/or the Premier’s Workplace must be assured within the those who they appoint to do the roles. If they don’t seem to be, then it isn’t going to alter,” Key mentioned.

Key mentioned this would come with politicians having the ability to inform constituents that well being selections are the accountability of Well being P.E.I. and never them.

Lastly, Key mentioned Well being P.E.I. should, in flip, present political leaders and Islanders that it may well ship high quality well being care.

Stu Neatby is a political reporter with the SaltWire Community in Prince Edward Island. He will be reached by e-mail at [email protected] and adopted on Twitter @stu_neatby.

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