Category Archives: Health Care Professionals

Tom Juravich Re-Releases Song in Support of U.S. Public Sector Workers

Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Tom Juravich is re-releasing his song “When Did I Become the Problem” in support of workers and unions fighting back against the attacks on public sector workers across the U. S. It is available as a download.

Juravich is one half of Healy & Juravich, who recently produced a music video with OPSEU for “What Will You Do When I’m Gone?” The song chronicles the struggle of home care nurses to maintain their jobs amid the insecurity of forced competitive bidding. (See )

“I have been shocked by the blatant attacks on public sector workers and their unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and so many others states across the country,” says Juravich. “Without a doubt states are facing some difficult financial times, but our kids’ teachers, the people who pick up trash in our towns and the folks working at the social security office that take care of our parents didn’t cause this problem, and slashing their wages, cutting their benefits and destroying their unions isn’t the solution.”

In his song Juravich writes about a teacher, a state mental health worker and a national park ranger who all find themselves blamed for everything that is going wrong. They lament:

When did I become the problem?
How did the fault become all mine?
They all say they’re tightening their belt
But the only one they’re tightening is mine.

“The Problem” first appeared on Juravich’s CD Altar of the Bottom Line released by Finnegan Music in 2009. Juravich is joined by drummer Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Paul McCartney, and Rosanne Cash), electric guitarist Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpeneter) and Richard Gates on bass (Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, and Patty Larkin).

Pete Seeger says, “I was impressed by Tom’s wide variety of material and frankly jealous of his wonderful voice,’” Dirty Linen writes that “Tom Juravich is foremost a storyteller. He has been traveling the country, hearing and retelling his stories of American sweat and struggle for a long time.”

Give the song a listen at When Did I Become The Problem

The song is also available on iTunes.

Healy & Juravich work with OPSEU to release home care music video

HAMILTON – Who says labour songs are dead? The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has produced a music video with recording artists Teresa Healy and Tom Juravich to highlight the exodus of Ontario’s home care professionals from an unstable work environment.

The song, “What Will You Do When I’m Gone?” was written by Healy and Juravich for a 2008 rally in Hamilton following news that the Victorian Order of Nurses and St. Joseph’s Home Care were dropped from a competition to provide visiting nursing services in the city. Both agencies had close to a century of history in Hamilton.

Healy & Juravich on the Hamilton waterfront in August.

As a result of the rally, a new moratorium was begun and the Hamilton competition cancelled.

Last spring Health Minister Deb Matthews said competitive bidding would return to home care despite the history of protest in many Ontario communities.

The union has argued that competitive bidding drives costs up and workers out as contracts change hands and jobs are lost. Patients in turn lose their long-time care providers, and waits increase as the sector is increasingly abandoned by health professionals who are frustrated by the unstable work environment.

“Unlike the sale of a business, when a home care contract changes hands, workers lose their jobs and are often forced to seek employment with new provider agencies at reduced wages and benefits,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000-member union. “They also start again with minimum vacation and no union representation.”

The video is being distributed to media outlets this week and on-line.

OPSEU has produced a web site to host the video which includes a “making of” documentary, background information, a free download of the song, links to the artists’ sites and a form where patients, families and workers can leave their own stories behind.

The site is located at A French version of the site is also available .

The music video:

The short documentary about the video:

CHPS raises concerns around regulation of pharmacy techs

The Canadian Health Professional Secretariat (National Union of Public and General Employees) has written to the President of the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada to express concerns about the regulation of pharmacy technicians.

While CHPS recognizes that standards of practice and accountability are important aspects of the safe and effective health care, the NUPGE Secretariat raises five concerns around regulation of the pharmacy technicians, including the lack of a grandparenting process for current technicians, the high cost of the bridging program borne by pharmacy technicians, and the lack of job security if they no not pursue registration.

“We are aware of no other profession that, on moving from unregulated to regulated status, required its members to effectively requalify to practice,” states the letter from Co-Chairs Elisabeth Ballermann and Mike Luff.

OPSEU is a participating member on the Canadian Health Professional Secretariat. Concerns around the regulation of pharmacy technicians was raised in the last CHPS meeting at the end of November.

To read the full letter (PDF), click: CHPS letter to PEBC

Previous Diablogue article on this issue:


Ontario Shores: High number of nursing vacancies makes replacing child and youth workers almost impossible

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences may have difficulty finding enough nurses to replace the 28 Child and Youth Workers it gave layoff notices to in December.

The layoffs call into question the future of the Adolescent Resident Rehab program which cares for youth from across Ontario.

The Whitby psychiatric hospital has posted vacancies for six registered nurses and 12 registered practical nurses to replace the CYWs. This is on top of current vacancies for more than 57 nursing positions at the hospital. That means Ontario Shores is presently seeking to fill 75 nursing vacancies.

Given the 28 Child and Youth Workers are expected to work their last day by April 13th, it doesn’t give the hospital much time.

This is further complicated by a high level of turnover of nurses and other professionals at Ontario Shores – a situation some staff are describing as a crisis. While new nurses may arrive to begin filling the large numbers of vacancies, the hospital appears to be absent of a strategy to stop those they already employ from walking out the door. With too few professional staff, workload accelerates as does the level of burnout and frustration and further turnover.

Some nurses have confided to the CYWs that they don’t feel comfortable taking over their jobs. The training for an RN and RPN is very different from the three year program the Child and Youth workers graduate from. Come April, the future of the program may be in doubt.

Health Canada funds blueprint strategy for sustaining health professionals

Health Canada is funding a project through the Association of Canadian Community Colleges to develop a blueprint strategy to sustain the supply of allied health professionals.

NUPGE’s Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat had urged Health Canada to develop such a strategy after noting the growing shortages of health professionals across the country.

Allied health providers are defined as “highly skilled health professionals who delivery key diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitation, home care, long term care and other clinical services essential to sustaining an efficient and effective health care system.”

The ACCC says factor affecting that demand include changes in patient populations, advances in medical technology and knowledge, patterns of clinical practice and demographics within individual health professions.

To read more about the project, go to

Qualified individuals could claim up to $100 in class settlement

If you worked at an eligible hospital or health care provider in 1997 and paid LTD premiums, you may be eligible to receive up to $100 as part of a demutualization settlement – however you must act by Monday, October 18th.

Demutualization is a process by which a customer-owned mutual organization or co-operative changes legal form to a joint stock company. As part of that process, the customers involved are eligible for a payout as they relinquish that ownership.

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is holding $22.5 million in demutualization proceeds in trust related to LTD premiums paid into the OHA plan before December 29, 1997. OPSEU participated with several other health care unions to obtain this settlement.

For those that continue to work for the same employer, you will receive your benefit in the form of a premium holiday on your LTD coverage. You do not need to do anything.

For those who may have changed employers, retired, presently work for an employer that pays 100 per cent of LTD premiums, or who may have been affected by amalgamation into a larger hospital system, you may be eligible to receive a cheque for as much as $100. You may also claim on behalf of a deceased member of the plan.

A list of eligible workplaces is available on-line. See:

If you are unsure, it is recommended that you still apply by the October 18 deadline.

For more information, go to:

The OHA, Ministry need to do better for Pharmacy Technicians

The Ontario Hospital Association spends much time discussing its HR needs. However, when it comes to assisting existing Pharmacy Technicians to re-qualify for their jobs under the amended Regulated Health Professions Act, the OHA has been missing in action.

OPSEU met with the OHA in June to try and persuade them to take a consistent approach to helping these workers through the bridging program necessary to qualify them in time for the 2015 deadline.

The OHA has instead left it up to individual hospitals to decide on how they will assist their pharmacy technicians. That will likely mean well-resourced hospitals will be on solid ground by 2015, leaving others to scramble for qualified staff.

Existing pharmacy technicians will be required to take four courses, pass an extensive qualifying exam, and then take a jurisprudence exam. The process takes considerable time and can cost the individual thousands of dollars in course and exam fees. How much these fees are supported by hospitals varies dramatically, as do opportunities to sit for the classes and take the exams.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists will permit working pharmacy techs to forgo some of these courses through a prior learning assessment process. However, the techs will have to sit for a “challenge” exam to demonstrate their knowledge.

Bringing the pharmacy technicians under the act will bring more accountability to the profession, however, Ontario may eventually face shortages of qualified techs if there isn’t adequate support. For many experienced pharmacy techs, balancing work, family, and this re-qualifying process will be a challenge.

It shouldn’t come down to the luck of the draw – whether one is at a hospital with resources or without. The Ministry should work with the OHA and Healthforce Ontario to assist experienced pharmacy techs to come through this process as seamlessly as possible. It’s in everybody’s best interests to do so.