Whitby and Durham area health officials are taking COVID to the bank with massive wage increases in 2021

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By Glenn Hendry

Published on October 19, 2022 at 2:12 p.m.

The COVID-19 virus has taken a heavy toll on the people of Durham Region, starting with the 511 lives lost since the pandemic was declared more than two and a half years ago.

But it has also cost Durham taxpayers dearly in the salaries of middle and senior managers in the region’s health department, with five executives alone earning $866,765 in raises in 2021.

The figures are courtesy of the Ontario Sunshine List, which details the annual salary of all government employees earning more than $100,000 a year. There are more than 1,700 Durham Region employees on the list, with their pay increases last year averaging 4.1%.

But health department officials won sky-high raises in 2021, with some seeing their salaries more than double from 2020. salary capped at 1%.

Dr Robert Kyle, Durham’s Chief Medical Officer, has enjoyed a whopping $167,502 increase in his salary from 2020 to 2021, a 58.7 per cent increase that takes his annual hit to $535,190, with nearly an additional $8,800 in benefits.

Dr Robert Kyle, Chief Medical Officer of Durham

Durham’s Corporate Communications Department released a statement on the pay rises saying ‘this was not a pay rise’ and insisting some perspective is needed.

“Reported earnings for 2021 included 2020 and 2021 COVID-monitored and approved overtime combined with annual base salary,” the statement said. “Work undertaken by Health Department staff included case and contact management; the management of epidemics; apply public health measures; public health advice and communications; testing and monitoring; 911 paramedic response; and more.”

Kyle, who has worked in the area for 26 years, has seen mostly small annual increases since 1996 and a big 31.1% jump in 2009 that pushed his annual salary up to $284,118. He also took two small pay cuts during that time, including a 4.8% cut in 2010, the year after his big raise.

His last cut was in 2017 (2.5%), three years before COVID hit and four years before his recent pay hike.

Durham Associate Medical Officer Elspeth McTavish had an even better day when the pay rises were announced. His salary of $246,774 in 2020 jumped 87.9% to $463,598, an increase of $216,824, the largest individual increase on the list.

With inflation around 7% (and hourly wages across the country up around 5.2% this year), some pay rises are in store for Durham Region staff, parks workers to senior executives. But the salary packages awarded to senior staff – notably in the health service – in 2021 were difficult to understand, overtime notwithstanding.

Prior to last year, the highest salary on record in the region was former CEO Garry Cubitt’s annual salary of $354,915 in 2018, so Kyle’s salary in 2022 makes it look like the currency. Current CEO Elaine Baxter-Trahair currently earns $315,499, down 1% from 2020.

Meanwhile, Kavine Thangaraj, Director, Population Health and Chief Nursing Officer at Durham, saw his salary more than double from 2020, when he was promoted to Deputy Director. Thangaraj dropped from $156,623 to his 2021-22 salary of $324,125.

Jean Nesbitt, who holds the same title as Thangaraj, saw an 82.3% increase in salary last year, from $172,284 in 2020 to $314,139 today.

Lisa Fortuna, director of health protection in Durham Region, saw her salary rise from $174,398 to $316,934, an increase of 81.7%.

These wage increases are justified, the Corporate Communications statement continues, as employees attached to the Durham Health Service, together with support staff and regional partners, “have played a central role” in the prevention, control and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Health, along with other regional departments, has been monitoring and approving overtime for COVID monitoring, response, and clinical work. The work of our public health staff to respond to the COVID pandemic for more than two years was part of the eligible expenses defined and approved for funding by the provincial government.

Middle managers in health care roles in Durham Region have also seen significant pay increases. Glendene Collins, who is the Community Development and Resources Manager, actually saw the biggest percentage increase of all, with her salary of $117,723 in 2020 rising to $294,561 in 2021, a massive jump of 150.2 %.

Rebekah Mills, assistant director, Health Protection, also saw a huge jump, with her salary rising 135.45% from $131,155 to $308,798.

Other major health department salary increases include Michelle Martin, health protection officer (100.22% to $239,330); Paula Hanley, population health manager (92.7% at $277,662); Jessica Jenkins, population health manager (75.9% to $252,833); Brenda Kwan, health protection manager (76.2% to $251,264); and Michelle Brolly, Assistant Manager, Population Health (from 87.9% to $245,996).

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