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The Manitoba government has signed a pay agreement that will allow nurses to be shifted to priority areas in the fight against COVID-19.

It says the agreement with the Manitoba Nurses Union will allow nurses to be redeployed in personal care homes, intensive care units and designated COVID-19 units.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says it will allow for changes to work assignments, locations, schedules and shifts to support the changing needs of hospital patients and care home residents.

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He says nurses affected by these changes, including those already working in facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, will get extra pay.

The agreement also establishes a COVID-19 northern allowance for staff redeployed to the north, as well as an allowance for current northern nurses who work in one community but pick up additional shifts elsewhere in the region.

Union president Darlene Jackson says the deal will help keep nurses on the job and give them some security and recognition.

“Nurses have played a critical role on the front line of Manitoba’s pandemic response and they have stepped up to the challenge, working countless long hours to provide quality care for patients and residents,” Jackson said Tuesday in a release.

Friesen said the government’s top priority is ensuring patients and care home residents are provided with the best possible care.

“Thousands of nurses working in personal care homes and hospitals across the province are making an enormous difference in our province’s fight against COVID-19,” he said in a release.

“This agreement also recognizes many nurses on the front line of the COVID-19 response for their dedication, commitment and compassion at a critical time.”

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Details of the agreement, which is to be in place for the duration of the pandemic, were not released.

The union says it has 12,000 members and represents registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners and operating room technicians.

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