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Health P.E.I. had physiotherapist Vickie Jones ready to relocate to Prince Edward Island.
Then recruiters lost her.
Jones, who is originally from Tignish and has been practising physiotherapy since 1998, said she enjoys her current job in New Brunswick but was open to returning to P.E.I.
However, accepting a Prince County home care physiotherapy position offered to her last spring would have seen Jones lose the current vacation time she’s built over her career. She now earns 22 days of vacation and will get another day every year until she reaches the five-week level in three years.
However, new physiotherapists in P.E.I. start with three weeks of vacation, and Jones said it would have taken 15 more years to build back up to five weeks.
“If I had been working in P.E.I. for the past 15 years, I would already be at the five-week threshold,” said Jones. “As a physiotherapist with 20 years of experience, I didn’t think that I should have to start over.
“So, for the sake of two weeks of vacation, the government of P.E.I. did not get to hire me … they had me on the hook and let me go.”
Jones graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1998 and worked in P.E.I. for the following year and a half. However, because she was only able to find part-time work in the province, she accepted a full-time position in Alberta and later New Brunswick, where she has been practising since 2002.
While she enjoys her job, she said she would re-consider a job offer in P.E.I. if the vacation issue was resolved because her family lives in the province.
The Guardian reached out to Health P.E.I. for comment on Jones’ experience, but the email was not returned.
“So, for the sake of two weeks of vacation, the government of P.E.I. did not get to hire me … they had me on the hook and let me go.” — physiotherapist Vickie Jones
Jones said she did not want to be overly critical of P.E.I. but shared her experience as an example of some issues with recruitment.
“Anything that promotes the profession or gets extra attention for funding to get more (physiotherapy) people in the province would be a good thing for the health care of the population.”
Health P.E.I. officials confirmed last month that physiotherapy services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital were reduced due to recruitment difficulties and that efforts to attract physiotherapists would continue. There are also a number of other physiotherapist vacancies in the province.
Much of the vacation time issue is dealt with in the collective bargaining agreement between Health P.E.I. and physiotherapists, which expired in 2018. In the agreement, it states vacation shall be earned from the date of employment and permanent employees shall be entitled to annual vacation with pay in accordance with years of continuous employment. The Guardian emailed Health P.E.I. to find out the current status of the collective bargaining agreement, but the email was not returned.
During talks with the province, Jones was told that extra vacation was not something that could be negotiated. However, she noted the government and the union appear to make occasional exceptions to the agreement, such as contracting out a private company to provide public physiotherapy services in West Prince.
Jones noted that, while the province would not budge on her vacation time despite her experience, one of Health P.E.I.’s recent recruitment strategies is to offer $20,000 and fund the $2,787 national physiotherapy competency exam, in addition to a regular salary, for physiotherapy graduates if they work in a rural hospital for three years.
Jones suggested a more effective way of attracting physiotherapists to P.E.I. may be to improve the portability between provinces.
“It would open up the potential for people to end up in positions where they ultimately want to be,” said Jones. “That’s not something that has been on table traditionally. Maybe things need to change.”
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