Lakeshore technologists ask Quebec for more recognition, better pay
PHOTO BY STEPHANIE O’HANLEY
Lakeshore General Hospital technologists braved rain and 8°C temperatures for an April 22 protest seeking recognition and better pay for their specialized training and job demands.
Last April 22, radiation oncology and medical imaging technologists from the Lakeshore General Hospital (LGH) held a noon-hour protest calling on the Quebec government to recognize their specialities and adjust their salaries to reflect the complex work they do and extra responsibilities that are now part of their jobs.
The hospital’s technologists are people you don’t usually see protesting, explained Louise Lavoie, president of the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS) CSSS ODI union local at the LGH. At first only four workers held picket signs near Lakeshore’s entrance but gradually the number grew to eight. Lavoie said more than 20 technologists work at Lakeshore and since employees have different lunchtimes, not everyone was available.
The Lakeshore technologists were part of protests organized the same day at 40 institutions across the province by three unions, the APTS, Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN) and the Fédération des professionnèles (FP-CSN). The unions’ talks with the Quebec government broke down two years ago.
During the protests technologists asked the government’s treasury board to quit stalling and settle their case. Lavoie said two years ago the Quebec government stopped paying technologists a premium for having specialized expertise. She said there’s a worry people will stop entering the specialties because there’s no incentive. “We’re still at the bargaining table and they’re (Quebec’s Treasury Board) not budging,” said Rosie Di Cesare, an MRI technologist. “We’re hoping they’re going to change their mind because it’s not fair.” Technologists pay to update training out of their own pockets and do training courses on their own time, Lavoie said. “You have to take extra courses,” said Di Cesare. “They’re correspondence courses; some of them are on-the-job training.”
Added Peggy Picoulis, whose work involves ultrasound, x-rays and PACS, a medical imaging technology, “You’re doing it in the evenings, you’re doing it on your weekends, (and) you’re signing up to write exams.” “I’m certified in CT but I’m not getting anything extra,” said Di Cesare. “I used to work in CT before MRI and usually for more education, you get higher pay. “We’re the lowest paid in all of Canada.” Di Cesare said. “If you’re certified in MRI anywhere else in Canada, your pay is double compared to us, whereas here (in Quebec) if you’re an MRI technologist and you’re certified, it means nothing. It (the pay) doesn’t change.” “It’s the same thing in ultrasound,” said Christy Selvakumar, an ultrasound technologist for 15 years. “If I worked in Ontario, I would get paid almost double.”
Selvakumar said his job involves increasing responsibilities. “We find the problems.” “It’s not the same like it used to be,” echoed Di Cesare. “We have a lot of extra responsibilities. We do a lot of nursing tasks that we’re not paid for and radiology tasks.” “There used to be nurses (for injections),” said Picoulis. Added Di Cesare, “Now you’re on your own. There used to be a physician sitting next to you. Now we’re responsible even to flag cases,” she said, noting for cases where there’s anything wrong with a patient or anything urgent, “if you don’t flag them, you’re responsible.”
“At the same time, you’re not allowed to make a diagnosis because you’re not a doctor,” Picoulis said. Technologists enjoy their work, the protesters stressed. “We want to do it,” said Di Cesare. “We just want to be recognized for it.”