Re: June 17 article about shortage of nurses and doctors in PMH region.
If Prairie Mountain Health needs nurses and doctors so badly, then it and other health regions had better start being proactive and pressure Manitoba Student Aid for funding for Canadians wishing to pursue training in these fields. It’s past time for Penny Gilson and her counterparts elsewhere in the province to start actively lobbying the Manitoba government to fund training in medical jobs where there are desperate shortages. It’s time to stop bringing in foreign health workers and start training our own citizens to fill these positions.
However, while many of our young people would be thrilled to retrain, the reality is that when you’re working at just above minimum wage, it’s almost financially impossible to retrain without a student loan. Unfortunately, Manitoba Student Aid penalizes people who work.
Why do I say this? Well, my daughter just finished her first year of an LPN program at ACC. In the fall of 2013, she was told she’d get a $12,000 student loan to finance her two years of training. In February 2014, MSA reassessed her and demanded $3,000 back, leaving my daughter with her tuition paid until June 2014 but not enough money to cover rent and food. So having no other choice, she worked weekends to cover those expenses. She went in regularly to the Brandon student loans office with her pay stubs so they would be aware of how much she was earning.
Then this past May, she was reassessed for a second time; in mid-June, she received a nasty letter from Alain C. at the Brandon Student Aid office informing her she would get no financial aid to finish her LPN course because she had (according to him) “substantially under-reported her income.” On the Manitoba Student Aid application, the applicant is asked to estimate their earnings for the summer of 2013. In the fast food industry, it’s very difficult knowing how many hours you’ll get so my daughter estimated — and, no surprise, got it wrong. Alain C. has full access to her federal income tax and her pay stubs from February 2014 to the present, and yet in his recent letter he basically threatens her with heaven knows what consequences for supposedly lying on her application.
The letter goes on to say that if her earnings are low enough in the next year, she might be considered for a loan for the 2015-16 student year. If that isn’t pure stupidity, I don’t know what is because her LPN course ends in the spring of 2015. Alain C., as a representative of the entire student loan system, is basically encouraging my daughter and others to quit school or work, go on social assistance or EI, thus making them eligible for Student Aid! Manitoba Student Aid is penalizing some students like my daughter for having worked before deciding to retrain i.e. for having had enough initiative to go out and work at just above minimum wage rather than collect EI/Social Assistance.
My husband and I are on pension. I have significant (and expensive) health problems. Our daughter is almost 27 years old and has been on her own gainfully employed for more than nine years. The province of Manitoba has come to a really sad point when the only solution for a young person to get retrained in a field where the province needs people is for pensioners like us to have to beggar ourselves and jeopardize our health to pay for our daughter’s final year of LPN training.
Treating hard-working students with the disrespect that my daughter has faced from the Manitoba Student Aid department is unacceptable. It seems that the Manitoba government would rather pay young people unemployment or social assistance than help them via the Manitoba Student Aid program to retrain to fill desperately needed positions in Manitoba’s beleaguered health system. What kind of perverse, twisted logic is Manitoba’s Student Aid using when it penalizes people who have worked and hands out student loans to people who sat on their butts doing nothing?
The bottom line? The only entities capable of applying enough pressure to change the Manitoba Student Aid program are the health regions. I’m tired of seeing the same old headlines about health staff shortages when the health regions don’t appear to have lobbied the provincial government to revamp their antiquated student aid system rules to reflect the financial realities our young people face in the 21st century.
Lots of time and money is being thrown at importing foreign doctors, nurses and LPNs. Why not take some of that money and train our own citizens for these health-care jobs?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 10, 2014