nurses day toronto

Toronto nurse is blasting Ford for paying doctors more than 10 times what nurses get

It's Nurses Day and nurses across Toronto being are applauded for the invaluable work they're doing right now, but an ICU nurse says the Ontario government should hold its applause during what is also International Nurses Week 2021 and put its money where its mouth is. 

A 27-year-old nurse caring for COVID-19 patients in an ICU says that, more than a year into COVID, she and her colleagues remain burnt out and underpaid. 

"Unappreciated, disrespected, and lack of support for nurses by this Ford Government," wrote nurse Deepi Saharan in an Instagram post two weeks ago. That post has since received support from thousands of followers. 

Leading up to Nurses Week 2021, which kicked off Wednesday, Saharan has been vocal on her account about the conditions that she and nurses have had to endure while working in ICU care. 

Earlier this month, Saharan posted a moving short film about the depression, mental and physical exhaustion, and dangerous conditions that registered nurses are currently dealing with. 

"People ask me if I'm okay. I smile and say 'Of course' and carry on. I don't have time to talk. I have 100 things to do,"  says Saharan in the film. 

"Today, I am responsible for three ICU-level patients. They are sick. Normally I would only have one. These are the sickest of the sickest patients in the hospital... I am doing the job of three nurses."

Nurses in Toronto and across the province have been demanding  better working conditions for over a year.

With their demands unheeded, an alarming number of nurses, mostly between 26 and 35 years old, are considering quitting their jobs, according to a survey by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario. "I need help," says Saharan over and over in her film.

"If nurses are truly the backbone of healthcare systems, we need to start showing them they are. We are not heroes. We are humans. We are working professionals. Essential but not expendable."

Bill 124, a wage-suppression bill passed by the Ford government in 2019, means that nurses, nurse practitioners and healthcare professionals, who Sarahan says are predominantly women, can't get more than 1 per cent pay increase in the next three years. 

Ontario nurses and frontline workers received an hourly rate increase last year, along with a monthly lump-sum payment, but only if they worked for more than 100 hours per month. Even that expired in August.

Meanwhile, doctors continue to receive pandemic pay. Physicians working in ICUs with high COVID-19 surges were being paid temporary rates of $385/hr during day shifts, and $450/hr during night shifts.

Nurses working in the same ICUs are being paid between $33 to $48 an hour. 

More than 63,000 people have signed a petition by the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) demanding that Ford reverse the bill. 

Lead photo by

Deepi Saharan

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