Seeing Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care senior staff wages increase by between 20 and 31 percent from 2020 to 2021 doesn’t sit well with the union representing nearly 1,200 hospital employees.
“Like most of my members, it was hard not to be upset seeing senior leaders get raises that work out to be more than the annual salary of a lot of our members,” OPSEU local 329 president Justin LeGros said.
“It’s been a really tough year for healthcare workers so to see raises over 30 percent was frustrating. Members felt really devalued.”
As an example, Waypoint president and CEO Carol Lambie’s pay jumped 20.5 percent from $318,300 in 2020 to $383,650 in 2021.
Lambie, who announced her retirement last year, was one of 207 Waypoint employees on this year’s Sunshine List, a jump from 189 last year.
The Penetanguishene-based hospital was topped by former Orillia geriatrician, Dr. Kevin Young ($446,040), Dr. Achaland Mishra ($407,960) and Dr. Plabon Ismail ($407,938). The Waypoint 2021 list also featured numerous program and department managers, pharmacists, registered nurses, psychiatrists and physicians.
But besides Lambie’s pay increase, what really irks the union are the salary jumps of four Waypoint vice presidential positions, which also featured a change in job titles from 2020 to 2021.
Linda Adams, vice president of patient experience and chief nursing executive (formerly vice president of quality and professional practice), saw the biggest senior management wage increase at 31 percent, going from $163,738 in 2020 to $214,512 last year.
Vice president of corporate services and chief financial officer (previously vice president of corporate services) Lorraine Smith saw her salary rise 24.7 percent from $173,524 in 2020 to $216,412.98 while Robert Desroches, vice president clinical services and chief operating officer (vice president of clinical services), saw his salary increase by 25.8 percent from $180,570 in 2020 to $227,230 last year.
The salary for vice president of people and chief human resources officer (formerly vice president of human resources) jumped 25.2 percent, going from $165,331 to $206,996 for the position that’s been held by Demetrios Kalantzis since October, 2020.
The current collective agreement for OPSEU local 329 represents, which has just under 1,200 full- and part-time employees at Waypoint as well as members who work for Honeywell out of the Waypoint campus in Penetanguishene, expired Thursday.
In 2021, LeGros said member wages increased by 1.75 percent in 2021, resulting in increases of anywhere form $870 to 1,950 last year depending on the position “while senior leadership took home up to $65,000 more each.
“That’s enough to hire a full-time RPN, which we desperately need,” LeGros said, noting that he doesn’t dispute the fact that senior leadership staff have challenging jobs.
“It’s hard to believe that the healthcare system has an extra quarter-million dollars to split between five people, when workers’ wage increases won’t cover the cost for them to park their cars when they come to work here next year.”
But Laurene Hilderley, Waypoint’s communications and fund development manager, said there are a number of reasons behind the wage hikes.
“These increases include paid-out vacation accrued during the pandemic that people were unable to take,” she said, “and are also reflective of restructuring of the executive team based on expanded roles and responsibilities within the hospital’s increasing provincial and regional roles.”
As for LeGros’ suggestion the salary bumps could have been used to hire more RPNs, Hilderley said the hospital has been doing just that.
“We have hired 450 new staff including many nurses since 2020,” she said. “Recruitment and retention is one of our main priorities at this time.”
LeGros said there’s a real sense that across the province more and more healthcare dollars are going to administration and management rather than to benefit direct patient care.
“Nobody ever looks at a healthcare system struggling to keep up and thinks the solution is throwing more money at upper management,” he said. “This isn’t just a Waypoint problem, it’s systemic.
“That is really concerning for the long-term sustainability of our healthcare system. The Ford government keeps pushing the federal government for increased healthcare transfer payments, which are without a doubt needed, but seeing where the money goes raises a lot of red flags.”
LeGros said that besides the increase in what he sees as more funding going into administrative jobs, the union finds Bill 124 even harder to accept since it will cap total compensation for healthcare workers at one percent annually over the next three years.
”It’s clear that Bill 124 was never about sustainability if hospital executives can receive increases of this magnitude,” he said. “Bill 124 was an all-around attack on workers and we’ve been encouraging our members to speak out against it. It’s one of the causes leading to staff shortages in the healthcare system.”
Hilderley said Bill 124 has been the source of significant staff morale concerns, especially given the pandemic’s toll on healthcare workers.
“The Ontario Hospital Association, which Waypoint is a member of, did not support Bill 124 when it was introduced and has continued to raise concern about the legislation’s impact with government,” she said.
“As the pressures of the pandemic ease, addressing the broad scope of factors contributing to the province’s health human resources challenges in collaboration with government and partner organizations will be vital to strengthening and improving the healthcare system.”
As well, LeGros said registered nurses can leave the hospital sector where they earn about $48 an hour to work for an agency working in collaboration with hospitals and make $75 an hour.
“With the cost of living being what it is, that extra $50,000 a year is pretty appealing,” he said. “It’s also at a great expense to taxpayers.
“This legislation has us bargaining with our hands tied behind our backs. We want to be able to bargain freely.”
As for the past two years, Hilderley said there’s no question the pandemic past has been challenging for everyone involved in the healthcare sector.
“We recognize and thank our staff for everything they are doing,” she said. “We are committed at both the provincial and federal level to participating in developing solutions for the health human resources challenges being faced across the province.”