Retention plan to continue

Rob Antle
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Government trying to keep its pharmacists

The Williams administration plans to continue with cash payments to help retain government pharmacists, according to Health Minister Jerome Kennedy.

Currently, pharmacists in the Department of Health and the regional health authorities (RHAs) get a market differential payment of $12,000 per year.

Health -

The Williams administration plans to continue with cash payments to help retain government pharmacists, according to Health Minister Jerome Kennedy.

Currently, pharmacists in the Department of Health and the regional health authorities (RHAs) get a market differential payment of $12,000 per year.

Briefing notes prepared last fall for Kennedy highlighted the difficulties for government in keeping its pharmacists on staff.

"Pharmacist recruitment in the public system (department and RHA) has been a significant challenge due to national shortages and higher compensation in the private system," the papers say.

The Telegram obtained the briefing materials under provincial access-to-information laws.

According to the documents, those pharmacists began receiving $12,000 per year in market differential payments in January 2008.

The payments ran for 18 months, until June 30, 2009.

At the end of that period, starting July 1, the regional health authorities continued to pay the market differential.

While there was a delay in paying the additional cash to pharmacists working in the department, the problem was finally ironed out late last year.

And Kennedy indicated that market differential payments will go on.

"It will continue," Kennedy told The Telegram. "We're just simply waiting for the new labour market adjustment policy to be officially brought in."

That should happen within a month or so, the minister suggested.

"What we're trying to do with the labour market adjustment policy is recognize that there is a demand for certain positions out there, and be able to address that demand in hard-to-fill positions."

The government currently has seven pharmacists on staff with the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP).

All but one of those positions are filled, Kennedy said. That single position is currently vacant due to a maternity leave, which ends in March.

The Association of Allied Health Professionals (AAHP) represents pharmacists with Eastern Health and within the department.

AAHP executive director Sharon King said the market differential payments are "a major recruitment and retention" incentive.

"We were at a real crisis situation in pharmacy within the hospitals prior to it being brought in," King said. "I don't know if anybody realizes how serious the situation was."

But the introduction of the incentive payments has "absolutely" worked in helping ensure those positions are filled, King noted.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Health, Association of Allied Health Professionals, The Telegram

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