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Manitoba nurses will receive $5-$6 per hour in extra pay for tending to COVID-19 patients or adapting to new roles and workplaces as the province grapples with the pandemic.

An agreement between the provincial government and the Manitoba Nurses Union allows health-care employers to change nurse working assignments, work locations and schedules, due to the novel coronavirus.

"We are already seeing a lot of redeployment within our facilities and within the city and within the province," MNU president Darlene Jackson said.

Now affected nurses will be compensated for it.

Late Tuesday, the province announced its memorandum of agreement with nurses.

"Thousands of nurses working in personal care homes and hospitals across the province are making an enormous difference in our province's fight against COVID-19," Health Minister Cameron Friesen said.

He said the agreement recognizes nurses for their "dedication, commitment and compassion at a critical time."

Jackson said dealing with the coronavirus has been "incredibly challenging" for nurses.

The deal had been in the works for weeks.

"This is an effort to get staff to where they need to be to be providing the care for Manitobans," Jackson said in an interview Wednesday.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Shared Health, said the agreement will aid efforts to "increase and stabilize the workforce" in priority areas within the health system.

In recent weeks, nurses have been redeployed to intensive care units, as well as to nursing homes.

"This (pay) benefit also applies to those adapting to changes in duties or work location as needed to provide care," Siragusa told a COVID-19 media briefing.

The Pallister government also worked out a compensation arrangement with the province's doctors this week.

Doctors who contract COVID-19 or have to take time off work to isolate will be paid during their time off work, according to the agreement. Compensation only applies to work-related exposure to the coronavirus.

Retroactive to Sept. 28, doctors can apply for compensation for up to 10 days at a time, if they have to isolate because they were exposed to the virus at work. The province said nearly 30 doctors have tested positive for COVID-19 and more have had to isolate as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Jackson said the agreement between nurses and the province is an "acknowledgement" by government of the significant challenges nurses are facing during the pandemic.

She called it "an important first step" in enabling the ongoing recruitment and retention of nurses in Manitoba.

"I would like to see (the additional pay) extended to every nurse in Manitoba because it doesn't matter where you work in this province... whether you work in acute care, long-term care, the pandemic is changing the way... we practise our profession," Jackson said.

The province's nurses have not received a pay increase in several years. The contract between the province and the roughly 12,000 MNU members expired in March 2017.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography