The Slovenia Times

Nursing staff reaches agreement with govt on pay rise


Ljubljana - Since hospitals are struggling with nursing staff shortages and trade unions have been warning that the situation has never been this bad, as many nurses quit their jobs, while those remaining are exhausted, an agreement has been reached about a pay rise for nurses. Media report the government has agreed to a 4-25% pay rise.

According to the trade unions, the deal is to be signed next week. According to the online Večer and Radio Slovenija, nurses in intensive care units should see their pay go up by six wage brackets in line with the deal, while that of other nurses and nursing staff at care homes should increase by up to four brackets, with one bracket meaning a 4% pay rise.

"Employees in health and social care are exhausted and constantly under stress because of excessive workload. In Covid-19 times too we rely on staff in both activities to already be used to working over their abilities, but this cannot go on indefinitely," Irena Ilešič Čujovič, the head of the Trade Union of Health Care and Social Care, told the STA.

Due to staff shortages, excessive workload and poor working conditions nurses are exhausted, burnt out and displeased, so increasingly many are leaving to other countries, where they are better paid and work in better conditions, or are abandoning this profession for other jobs with less responsibility and about the same pay, said the head of the Chamber of Nurses and Midwives, Monika Ažman.

"We have never seen such a large exodus from the profession as we are facing today, when the epidemic has further exposed all the problems in nursing," she added.

Slavica Mencingar, the head of the trade union representing nurses, said that nurses in hospitals and social institutions and those with less favourable working time should be better paid.

Trade unions estimate that hospitals and other institutions lack 30-40% of staff. "This means that one nurse is almost working for two," said Mencinger, noting that more than 250 nurses had left the UKC Ljubljana hospital alone during Covid times.

The situation is similar around the country. In Izola, about 20% more staff would be needed. Currently, this problem is being tackled with rearranging of existing staff, overtime work and hiring of students.

At the UKC Maribor, the situation is the most critical in clinics for neurological and infectious disease, internal medicine, surgery and gynaecology.

Neither Menciger nor Ažman expect this negative trend to stop in the future. A more detailed assessment of the staff shortages will be possible when the standards and norms for nurses are adopted, which is seen as one of the solutions to the current situation.

According to Ilešič Čujovič, the education system will also need to adjust to this and these very difficult jobs will need to be made appealing to the young. It is hard to expect that nurses with secondary education will settle for a minimum wage, said Menciger.

One of the solutions is an immediate pay raise, she said. The trade unionists had been negotiating on this with the government since mid-August and announced today that an agreement had been reached.

They also warned that the work of nursing staff had not changed much after 15 June, when the end of the epidemic was declared, and that the government should consider paying out bonuses to nursing staff also when they are not working in the grey and red zones.

Another problem highlighted is communication and social dialogue. Mencinger said that different decrees were being adopted overnight so to speak, so nurses learn about them from the media, which makes their work and communication with patients ever harder.

Ažman warned that nurses had not been included in Covid-19 advisory groups and decision-making bodies. "We are the largest professional group in the health system and we believe our voice should be heard when it comes to health policy. We need nurses to be more involved in the management of the health system - not only in epidemics, but also in other times," she urged.


More from Society