‘Appalling’: Housekeepers at Vancouver Island hospitals still waiting long-promised pandemic pay

WatchHousekeepers working at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Victoria General Hospital say they still haven't received the province's long-promised pay. Skye Ryan has more.

Diana Fagan is among the thousands of staff members working on the COVID-19 frontlines at hospitals across Vancouver Island.

As a housekeeper at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Fagan is not only exposed daily to units with confirmed cases of the virus but is responsible for cleaning and removing biohazards from them.

It’s a job, that puts her at great risk, even if she’s wearing protective equipment and she’s been busier than ever before.

“It’s always on our mind,” said the 62-year-old told CHEK News.

“I have more bio and garbage than I ever have. I have to go on the floors that have COVID and just wear gloves and a mask and just hope for the best.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan promised to provide 250,000 eligible front-line workers with one-time temporary pandemic pay — a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour for a 16-week period from March 15 to July 4.

Following months of delays, pandemic pay began flowing to eligible workers in early October and employers had until Oct. 31 to submit claims to the province’s temporary pandemic pay program.

According to Fagan, she and nearly 300 other housekeepers working at NRGH and Victoria General Hospital, still haven’t received the long-promised pay, despite being eligible for it.

“We have been waiting for so long,” said Fagan, who estimates she is owed $2,400.

Housekeeping services at both NRGH and VGH are contracted out, meaning those housekeepers are not Island Health employees but work for another company — meaning they’ve fallen through the cracks.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Ellen Bannatter, an NRGH housekeeper and Hospital Employees Union shop steward.

Both Fagan and Bannatter were surprised to learn of the B.C. government’s announcement regarding the new COVID-19 benefit program for the general population, particularly when housekeepers haven’t even received their pandemic pay.

“Where’s our top-up? We’ve been waiting since July,” said Bannatter.

Island Health didn’t respond to CHEK’s request for comment Saturday.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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