Quebec ups Nunavik nurse bonuses 20 per cent to help stem labour shortage

The Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre in Kuujjuaq. Several sources denounce the proximity of the Tulattavik Health Centre to the health authority, both based in Kuujjuaq. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

In an effort to stem the labour shortage in Nunavik’s health system, Quebec’s provincial government has announced bonus increases of 21.43 per cent.

The announcement was made after an agreement was signed between the government and the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) au Nunavik.

“These measures will help to attract new resources, but also to retain those who are already helping us in the field,” Quebec’s Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Improving the conditions for attracting more qualified staff will improve access to quality healthcare for the people of Nunavik.”

The increase will raise the current signing bonus from $14,000 $ to $17,000. For those working in the region’s more remote villages, the amount will go from $ 20,447 to  $24,829. 

The bonuses will be indexed to inflation. 

The FIQ said the bonuses hadn’t been updated since 1999 and that the announcement was an important step to improving working conditions for health care workers in the region. 

“We’re talking about a 46% increase in these bonuses,”FIQ President Julie Bouchard said in a statement on Wednesday.  

“This represents a significant monetary incentive that finally recognises the disadvantages associated with working in a particularly remote area, and will undoubtedly have a positive effect on attracting those who might be interested in going to Nunavik to work.”

Ongoing struggles to retain workers

Nunavik is the Inuit region of northern Quebec and is accessible only by plane.

Attracting health care workers to the North has been an ongoing challenge but became worse during the pandemic.

In summer 2022, things reached a breaking point when, at some points, only 13 nurses with enlarged roles were in place in the region’s seven Hudson Bay communities, when normally there are 30 such positions.

(An enlarged role nurse is nurse with special training. The training allows them to work in rural and isolated areas and do things like make patient assessments and other actions that nurses wouldn’t normally do.)

The Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq in the province of Quebec. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The labour shortage meant not only that some communities were without nursing staff but that in others, nurses could find themselves on call for more than 24 hours at a time without a break.

In January, Hudson Bay nurses staged a sit-in until a labour tribunal intervened.

“They were overworked, exhausted and no longer able to provide safe, quality care,” Bouchard said.  

“They’ve mobilized over the past few months, and finally they’ve been heard by the Quebec government. Their working conditions will be improved, starting immediately. This is good news not only for care professionals, but also for the people who live in these communities.”

Increased trips down South

In addition to the bonuses, nurses will also be able to take up to six trips south a year, instead of four. 

“This is an important element that will make it easier for these health care professionals to reconcile work and personal life, and will also help to stabilize the health care service  in the Far North,” said Jerome Rousseau et Nathalie Levesque, FIQ vice-presidents and negotiators. 

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Health services reduced in 6 Nunavut communities amid staff shortages, CBC News

Greenland: Greenland to reduce services amidst staffing shortages in health care system, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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