January 16th, 2021

The indispensable role of nurses

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 14, 2020.

Problem of those who work the system must be addressed

I have heard concerns from some in the public sector regarding their ongoing contract negotiations with the government. Public-sector employees have one particularly negative consequence to their job; every time their contract is up for renewal they become pawns of often contentious negotiations.

They are portrayed by both sides in extreme measures, all the while watching how they are described by those who seem to forget that this is their job, their livelihood and not a theoretical entity. Each part of their occupation has the potential to be dissected and debated with the highest scrutiny by anyone who chooses, regardless of their knowledge or understanding of the work at stake.

Nurses are in this process right now and some context may be helpful for the general public. Nursing is an essential service, therefore making it one of the only occupations that must be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, always and forever. Be it Labour Day or Christmas Day, every holiday needs a full complement and regular rotation.

Not everyone’s special requests can be granted, which means there’s always someone who has to work and miss out on time with family and friends. Yes, components such as shift differential and hourly pay do come into play É but no amount of money can replace Christmas morning at home.

For most nurses I speak with, wages aren’t even the top issue; they’re more concerned with staffing levels. Many people don’t understand what working shortstaffed means at 9 in the evening. Nurses could be bandaging a wound, cleaning a bedpan (yes, we still use those), charting vitals, protecting patient safety, requesting drugs or labs, giving reports, all at the same time and for multiple patients. They sometimes carry this workload for 12-hour days because the volume is continuous, regardless of whether or not the staff is full or short.

Nurses are the faithful administrators of a huge amount of life-saving care, but they face a discouraging lack of understanding. People become frustrated over wait times and are more than ready with unfair questions and accusations. One decimal point out on a drug calculation could mean overdose. Missing a report could mean key treatments are either missed or doubled. All this requires dedicated concentration. And then to top it all off, nurses are often regarded as “the help” instead of being recognized for the absolutely vital support they are, not only to doctors, but the entire health community.

Nurses need to be respected and protected, as do the many other public-sector employees like teachers, EMS personnel, prison guards and librarians.

It’s for that very reason something needs to be done when a few manage to work the system and earn two, three or four times the typical full-time salary. The recent AHS review showed that 1,852 nurses earned between $150,000 and $250,000 per year, potentially adding almost $200 million in costs above average nursing salaries. This can occur in any occupation, when the few can ruin the system for the many. Having been a former construction contractor in a sector where they literally make shows about this, I should know. As a government looking to correct finances, this is an issue that must be addressed. Unfortunately, pinpointing the instigators isn’t always possible because of the words “collective bargaining agreement.” Those three words represent both the strength and weakness of unions; when you deal with one, you deal with all.

So, the next time you are in a hospital and nurses are sitting at a desk or talking to a colleague, please realize that they are doing indispensable work. Protecting someone’s confidentiality, confirming a transfer, making a calculation or transferring vital information, all for the health and safety of someone like you. Remember that there could be a lot more going on that you can neither see nor have access to.

In the same way, a politician can advocate for nurses and appropriate staffing at the same time as trying to balance the budget.

Nathan Neudorf is the UCP MLA for Lethbridge East. His column appears monthly.

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Southern Albertan

Again, any Registered Nurse who is at the top of the pay scale and is working full time (and mostly women), makes about $94,000/year. Perhaps, any income above this, could suggest a fair amount/or a lot of, overtime, and also suggests that this group is getting close to retirement age. When this much overtime is being paid, i.e.to the point of over $100,000/year suggests that there are staff shortages, and that it might be wise to just plain, have a higher nurse to patient ratio. What could it be? More staff or ongoing overtime?
For a glimpse of who the top earners in Alberta are, have a look at this:
“Who were the top earners in Alberta’s public sector in 2018”
The 2019 list will be available in June.
The ‘government employees’ list is of particular note. And keep in mind, in the meantime, while front line health care professionals are being targeted, we are paying a $195,000/year wage for the guy to head up and screw up, the $30 million/year useless ‘War Room.’ And us taxpayers get to fork up to pay the $4.7 billion really useless, corporate welfare tax cut. A spending problem?
Again, perhaps, what should be more, the discussion, is re: lack of revenue. Again, our Saskatchewan right wing neighbours recently increased their PST from 5% to 6%, because as was said, they needed more revenue. Alberta, and the Kenney UCP, need to understand that the boom days are over, and now, we need to do the work that other provinces have done, to deal with adequate revenue, including diversifying our economy.
There is still plenty of ‘money’ in our area of southern Alberta and I know, that what surrounds this wealth is fine, but there is also the ability to afford to pay a bit more tax.
Will the Kenney UCP austerity program push Alberta into recession? What more, is coming with the budget in Feb 27th?


AHS has to disclose compensation for employees receiving over 129,809.00. Anyone can search this on their website. According to the site
“The AHS disclosure list includes approximately 2.1 per cent of AHS staff, or about 2,200 employees. Approximately 47 per cent of this group is unionized staff, including registered nurses, paramedics, technicians, psychologists, mental health therapists and pharmacists, among others. 53 per cent are non-union staff, including medical and senior leaders, and frontline clinical staff such as unit managers, nurse practitioners, clinical leads, pathologists, dentists, physicians, and lab scientists, among others.”
That means that less than 30 Registered Nurses made 200,000.00 and above. I’m not sure where Nathan Neudorf is getting his information from, but according to this, he is extremely misleading when he says over 1000 RNs are making between 150000 and 250000. If there are nurses making over 200,000.00 it is precisely what Nathan suggested…..because they are short-staffed and are getting overtime.

Again…53 per cent of AHS employees making over 129,809.00 are non-union staff. Please, let’s look at those numbers and consider cutting middle management before placing the blame on Registered Nurses.


“We” still use bedpans – a lesson in political gaslighting.

According to Mr. Neudorf:

1. Public sector employees are not clever enough to understand and know they are being “used”.
2. Nurses, EMS, teachers, prison guards and librarians deserve respect but they “work the system”.
3. Unions are to blame.
4. I’ll advocate for you but on my terms as dictated to me by my party.

Quite frankly, Mr. Neudorf, how many nurses, EMS, teachers, prison guards and librarians could be employed in the public sector with the funds that have been diverted from the public good to:

1. The Fair Deal Panels.
2. Public Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen’s salary of $291,000.00.
3. Commissioner Steve Allen’s sole-source contract to his son’s law firm for legal advice to the inquiry in the amount of $905,000.00.
4. Government funding to the CEC for $30 million annually.
5. The costs associated with the MacKinnon Report.
6. The contract with Ernst and Young for $2 million.
7. David Knight Legg’s expense claims of $45,000.00, three times as much as anyone else in Mr. Kenney’s office has claimed, and more than former premier’s principal adviser spent in four years.
8. Dismissal of $173 million tax debt owed by energy companies in the province.
9. Revenue cancellation with the $4.7 billion corporate tax relief giveaway.
10. The financial penalty associated with the $3.7 billion crude-by-rail contracts cancellation.

Get out your calculator, Mr. Neudorf, and do the sums.

And, the rest of us will keep good notes.

“The next time a politician says something outrageous, do not just be outraged – look for the real event that this shiny object is trying to distract you from…You can’t be gaslighted if you don’t get confused and you won’t get confused if you are not misled in the first place.”

– Stephan Lewandoswky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol


Mr. Neudorf:

Do give much thoughtful reflection on the decision made by MLA Robert Gauvin and consider following his principled and conscientious decision.


Trevor Harrison

To abridge and decipher Mr. Neudorf’s column, he likes and respects nurses, and even views them as indispensable, but only as long as they work for the government’s prescribed minimum, and do not ask to be compensated for extra work performed (because the government will not hire enough nurses); and presumably really likes those nurses whom he can incite to anger at their colleagues.