Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson in 2019. Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

UPDATE: Council approved the proposal, at 40 new permanent positions

Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson is asking Council to convert 40 full-time equivalent temporary COVID response positions to permanent positions, increasing the Public Health division’s permanent staffing level.

Dr. Richardson writes the City needs to retain “key staff in order to continue responding to COVID-19 and rolling out the vaccination program.”

The City is experiencing a turnover rate of approximately 35% among the temporary staff hired to respond to COVID and cannot fill positions they are posting for hire.

Hamilton pays Registered Practical Nurses between $32.551 – $36.990 per hour. Halton pays RPNs between $36.22 to $37.56, Niagara $26.75 – $33.05, Haldimand Norfolk $23.87 – $35.22.

Other public health units are reporting similar turnover and challenges recruiting staff.

“Several key positions and skillsets within the public health sector are in high demand making it a challenge to recruit and retain staff,” Dr. Richardson writes. “Many organizations in response have decided to recruit additional permanent staff in response, making temporary jobs unattractive.”

“Over time, as COVID-19 transitions to an endemic state … it is anticipated the resources required for an ongoing program for COVID-19 will be of similar FTE,” Dr. Richardson writes.

The positions will be funded by provincial COVID funding for 2022 and will not be reflected in the City’s 2022 budget process.

Dr. Richardson writes there are 111 temporary positions the City is unable to fill.

There is 27 FTE public health staff who are presently eligible, or will be before August 31, to retire with a pension.