‘Hypocrisy’: Alberta’s healthcare workers outraged over Hinshaw’s bonus amid health cuts

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health got a $230,000 bonus last year... while frontline health care workers were told by government to take salary cuts.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s salary and massive benefits aren’t sitting well with Albertans, many of whom say her income of nearly $600,000 last year is outrageous. Of particular focus is her bonus.

The Alberta government’s disclosure on employees reveals Hinshaw made more than $363,000 in salary and received a nearly $228,000 bonus from the province.

At the same time, frontline healthcare workers were repeatedly asked to take salary cuts.

“It’s a tragedy is what it truly is, and it’s a slap in the face to every person working in the front-lines of health-care,” said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

“What we need is someone to take care of [healthcare workers], make sure they’re compensated properly, and listen, getting a one per cent [wage increase] in the same year Hinshaw got a 63 per cent wage increase? That tells you right there where the priorities are, and they’re messed up.”

Parker says the UCP keeps shortchanging and scapegoating front-line healthcare workers, and it’s time for the government to recognize and appreciate the work they do.

“It highlights the hypocrisy from this UCP government, when they tell my members that there is no money at the bargaining table, that they need to take 10 per cent in wage rollbacks and cuts, and yet they treat their managers and executives like royalty,” he added.

“They’re leaving in droves now, so maybe we should try to focus on keeping those workers on the front-lines to keep us all safe. Enough of this hundreds of thousands in bonus payments or buy-off money or whatever this was.”


Parker says he’s gotten several complaints from upset HSAA members.

“I got a call this morning from a member on the front-lines, he’s served 35 years to protect Albertans, his bonus is a $25 pen for all of that time served protecting Albertans. So, do you think he wants to stick around any longer?”

The province says 107 employees received additional compensation for work required in the pandemic response at a cost of $2.4 million.

“Given the scale of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extraordinary amount of additional work was required by Dr. Hinshaw,” the government statement read.

Despite that, many Albertans — namely healthcare workers — are sharing frustration at the decision to give Hinshaw a 63 per cent bonus.

“In 2021, nurses were working massive amounts of overtime, putting their health at risk every day that they were going to work,” said David Harrigan, director of Labour Relations with United Nurses Alberta.

“Throughout that year, the government, Minister Travis Toews in particular, was frequently going public saying, ‘yes, we respect the work nurses do, but they have to take a pay cut, their salary has to be in line with the rest of the provinces.’ Then we find out, the same time he was doing that, they gave the chief medical officer of health an increase of 60 per cent.”

Harrigan adds after threatening job action and spending more than a year in bargaining, nurses got an increase of four per cent over four years.

“It sends another message that this government does not care about front-line [healthcare workers]. This is one reason why we have the nursing shortage that we have. Things are so bad in Alberta that there are service reductions all across the province, over 50 per cent of the hospitals are using travel nurses rather than employees to nurse the patients in hospitals.”

University of Alberta professor speaks out

Dr. Ubaka Ogbogu, a law professor at the University of Alberta whose studies include health law and science policy, says Hinshaw’s bonus is unwarranted.

“I don’t think there is anything she did in the past two years that the remuneration is justified, especially if it’s happening at a time where people are being told to cut back and receive less, and the provincial government has doggedly gone after many people who are frontline workers,” Ogbogu said.

Ogbogu adds giving Hinshaw a massive bonus isn’t a good look for the province.

“They were fighting doctors at the time, to reduce what doctors earned. They were fighting nurses, they were fighting universities, and a variety of essential services across the province were getting slashed. Disability services were getting slashed.”

Dr. Jing Hu, Alberta’s deputy medical officer of health, received $142,533 in cash bonuses from the government. Hu’s salary was just under $279,000.

Hinshaw has been, and continues to be, the voice of public health in Alberta. Meanwhile, the province has made cuts to AHS’ food services sector, as well as nurses, with a proposed wage cut that turned into a wage freeze.

There have also been longer wait times for EMS to arrive, and urgent care centres in the province have seen shortened hours due to stress and shortages.

Last month, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions launched an ad campaign to call for action, saying its members are over-worked.

“If they could cut and slash people who were actually heavily involved on the ground and on the field doing work to try and deal with the pandemic, including doctors, nurses, and others involved, I see no reason to be paying out fat bonuses to people like Hinshaw,” Ogbogu told CityNews.

“It’s, quite frankly, infuriating. I can’t think of anyone that was involved in essential services, or who was involved in health care, or who wasn’t working crazy hours at the time,” he said, adding he’s upset Hinshaw was “singled out for this compensation.”

Several people on Twitter have suggested various reasons the money was given to Hinshaw.

“For her to receive that compensation, for what seems to be working more hours, is quite unusual. There is an expectation that she will have to put in more hours. I don’t know that that was the reason to pay more when you are cutting and slashing everywhere else,” Ogbogu said.

People who are upset about Hinshaw’s pay, he says, should direct their anger to the UCP government, which is her employer.

“The people who approved the pay should be the ones to answer questions about it, and they should be the ones who face public scrutiny because [Hinshaw] didn’t award that to herself,” said Ogbogu.

“That money was approved by someone, and that person — whoever it was — that approved it, ought to be answering questions from the public as to why a public servant will receive that much, in the form of a bonus, at a time when the provincial government is cutting back on everything on everyone else.”

In its budget tabled in February, the province promised the AHS operating budget would hit $15.1 billion in 2022/23.

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