Update on pandemic pay; pandemic pay in consumption and treatment sites

Update on pandemic pay: Today we received an update from government on their response to the concerns on pandemic pay raised by a number of groups. You can see the new guidelines for pandemic pay in a slide show here. There are important gains in consumption and treatment sites; mental health and addiction programs; community and home care; public health and emergency health services nurses; as well as nurses (RN, RPN, NP), PSWs and respiratory therapists, as well as some auxiliary staff, in all hospitals. Again, for details, go to the slide show here. There are also disappointments as, for example, we have not yet been able to persuade the government to extend pandemic pay to nursing managers in LTC, in correctional facilities and other settings where they serve, effectively, as front-line pandemic workers.

On this same topic, I received a letter a week ago from RNAO member Christina Hughes (included in this blog with permission):  

Pandemic pay in consumption and treatment sites

Dear Doris,

Thank you for all the work the RNAO is doing on behalf of nurses and our communities across the province.

I am writing to you to request advocacy on behalf of staff working at Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) Sites, across the province.

For the purpose of this email, I will speak to the experiences we are having at our location in Guelph.

Currently, the prioritized roles for pandemic pay do not include CTS Sites.

Since the rationale for inclusion criteria indicates specifically roles wherein the primary function is caring for high risk individuals in congregate settings, it is my belief that CTS sites do qualify (and absolutely should). It is confounding that the pandemic pay criteria has not been interpreted this way.

I understand that extensive advocacy is underway to have CTS staff included as recipients of pandemic pay, including them as addiction and mental health workers in congregate settings. Our staff at the CTS in Guelph, operated out of the Guelph Community Health Centre, would like to be added to those who are fiercely advocating that our teams be considered for pandemic pay.

We here at our site continue to see vulnerable peoples, some of whom are positive for Covid19 and travel to us from a Supported Isolation Center (SIC) for the homeless or precariously housed (these folks are symptomatic and/or positive for COVID-19).

While we endeavour to maintain physical distance and are donning the appropriate PPE, proximal care is obviously required when responding to overdoses or other medical emergencies. We also continue to provide wound care and basic assessments as required and when possible.

I am sure I don’t need to tell you that the opioid crisis has not paused for the pandemic, and that now, more than ever, our vulnerable and marginalized communities face even greater barriers to accessing care and connection.

Our doors here are open daily, including weekends and holidays. We have nurses, peers, social work, harm reduction workers, indigenous workers, and cleaning staff. All of them continue to work relentlessly to deliver lifesaving services amidst this pandemic, and, as a result, are exposed daily to populations who are at high risk of COVID-19.

In communities where other sites have been forced to close their doors, we saw a marked increase in deaths due to overdose. Here we work with and support upwards of twenty to thirty folk each day, and have seen only a minimal increase in adverse events from substance use in our community.

We connect clients with food and shelter services, as needed medical care, and harm reduction education and supply distribution. Two of our nurses provide intake support to the SIC as needed.  Clients continue to access us daily and often speak of how isolated and disenfranchised they would be if our doors were not open to them.

Please help us to continue this essential work. Support our team by qualifying this work to be included in the pandemic pay. 

I stand with my team, and for the people I serve.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this advocacy request,


Christina Hughes, RN

Guelph CHC, CTS Site

RNAO’s response: Christina, thanks so much for the awesome work that you and your colleagues do! I want to publicly acknowledge you for drafting this letter that triggered me to advocate for pandemic pay for health providers working in consumption and treatment sites. As you can see in the government’s new guidelines (item above), we have heard today that you and your colleagues will receive pandemic pay. This is so well-deserved!