Hospital workers feel forgotten after being bypassed for pandemic pay

Petrolia's Phil Hodgetts, right, was one of about 200 workers from Bluewater Health demonstrating in Sarnia Wednesday.

When Phil Hodgetts goes to work at the lab in Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital, he works side-by-side with nurses and doctors.

So when the provincial government heaped praise on frontline workers and offered pandemic pay, and left out professions like lab technicians, Hodgetts was frustrated.

Wednesday, he and about 200 members of OPSEU Local 125 stood side-by-side but six feet apart on the sidewalk in front of Bluewater Health in Sarnia to draw attention to the fact his job is not considered essential in the fight against COVID-19 – at least not for the province’s pandemic pay hike.

“In a small rural hospital, you have a constant interaction with patients, outpatients, emerge patients, inpatients and the government say well, that person standing beside you working their front line because they’re dealing with the patient at the same time you’re beside them and being told that no, you’re not frontline because you don’t deal with patients is very frustrating,” says Hodgetts.

The Vice President of OPSEU Local 125 June Weiss agrees. She says a broad range of professions have been left out of the $4 per hour increase including medical lab technologist, medical lab assistants, radiology technologist, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, rehab assistance, biomedical technologists, social workers and some managers.

“They’ll be working side by side with a registered nurse who is getting the pay, they’re also exposed. They’re also frontline, but they are not getting. So it’s caused some dissension.”

Weiss wants the public – and the government – to know her members have been playing a key roll in the fight against COVID-19. “All those COVID-19 tests have been done by labs technicians, and all the bloodwork the chest x ray for complications,” says Weiss.