Premier Legault said the government will provide the public health system with its own bank of employee candidates, so that it never has to depend on private agencies.

A nursing agency will tender for contracts with employers who will hire agency nurses by the day/week/month/contract duration. These employers will pay the agency the going rate for a nurse, plus the profit margin. That’s the core of the contract.

We know that nursing agencies provide nurses mostly to the public sector. Say it’s a CHSLD. That place employs nurses and pays them from their salary budget, allocated by the government. It pays agencies the contract price from the same budget, so the agency can pay the going rate to the nurse and keep the profit for itself.

Which means that nursing agencies run their businesses, at least partly, on the back of the public sector, with taxpayers’ money, for profit. Systemic conflict of interest comes to mind. Anyway, I would be surprised if agency nurses were paid from foundation fundraisers, for example.

Now, about the forced overtime issue: a nurse employed by a health center cannot refuse this because it would mean abandoning her patients and she could lose her license. On the other hand, an agency nurse’s answer to forced overtime could easily be that her agreement with her agency is “no overtime” and she goes home, obligated to nothing more.

Agency nurses do not go to a workplace that is a former employer of theirs. If they take on a long-term assignment and they like it, they will stay with the agency as long as the agency holds that contract. Then, they will follow the contract and skip over to the next agency that wins the bid. Or, they will take on short-term assignments, their choice.

Nurses’ unions have their hands tied behind their backs when it comes to forced overtime, because of the inherent ethics of the issue. They could never eliminate forced overtime while I was working, and they still can’t, nine years after my retirement.

We need neither unions nor agencies. We need nurse-agents, like movie stars and sports stars have. Nurses are at least as important as those groups. The Order of Nurses can be the guild. Crazy? Perhaps, but the shortage due to leaving the profession, that is way crazier.

Lucie Adams


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