MEDIA RELEASE: Government Must Address Underfunding of 811 Service
Telehealth Associates who are responsible for operating the province’s 811 telehealth system are amongst the lowest paid health care workers in Canada, which is making it nearly impossible to retain staff.
There are currently 18 Telehealth Associates employed by Emergency Medical Care Inc., and they are the first point of contact for members of the public who call 811 to receive medical advice around-the-clock. They gather information to identify if the call needs to go to the nurses or, in the case of an emergency, they transfer immediately to 911. They also help get people listed on the family physician waitlist. Staffing shortages have been so acute that workers have had to be mandated to work overtime, which is leading to worker fatigue and burn-out, and jeopardizing the service.
“If Tim Houston is going to tell 148,000 Nova Scotians without family doctors to call 811 if they need medical care, he needs to at least ensure the service is adequately funded so the service can be run reliably,” said NSGEU President Sandra Mullen.
“The service they offer is an integral part of our health care system now, but unfortunately, these workers are currently earning between $17.05 to $18.44 per hour – which is well below what is considered a living wage in Nova Scotia – and eight dollars an hour less than people doing similar work for 311.”
A living wage in Halifax, which is where the 811 service is based, is considered to be $23.50 per hour. Operators doing similar work for HRM’s 311 service have a starting pay of $26.90 per hour.
While government has taken some steps to recognize the importance of this work, they are refusing to address the fact these workers are among the lowest paid health care workers in the country. NSGEU is calling on government officials to immediately reopen the members’ current contract, which was negotiated in 2018 and does not expire until 2024, to address low wages in the face of unprecedented inflationary pressures.
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents nearly 36,000 workers who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Sandra Mullen, please contact:
Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer,
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