Just two days after opening applications for new orderlies to staff Quebec’s seniors’ residences, the government says it’s been pleasantly surprised by the response: 69,000 interested people, so far, with more applications still coming in.

The province had previously announced it would try to hire 10,000 people by the fall, and Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said Wednesday that now seems like a sure bet.

“At this point I can guarantee that we will have 10,000 new orderlies in September, and this is great news,” she said.

The seniors’ homes have been notoriously understaffed and have come to a breaking point during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the military called in to help.

For one woman who applied, though, the idea of this kind of work isn’t too daunting.

“Yes it’s hard work, but someone has to do it and why not me?” said Cindy White, one of those who applied.

The province’s compensation offer helped, she said. It includes paid training and a starting salary of nearly $50,000.

White said she’s long hoped to start working in health care. Low salaries likely deterred many people from taking similar jobs in the past.

“As long as I can remember they were underpaid, that’s why we’re in the situation we are in now,” White said.

Local unions, however, say the government’s new plan could create staffing shortages elsewhere.

“How can you explain, as an employer, as the government of Quebec [will] pay a beneficiary attendant in the CSHLD $26 an hour, and the same job title with the same tasks in a hospital at $22 an hour?” said Raymond Phaneuf of the SQEES union. “That doesn’t make sense.”

There are also concerns that much of the future staffing will still come down to working conditions—regardless of pay, if working conditions don’t improve, the new recruits may not last.

“They feel bad, at the end of the day, not because they don’t want to do the job, but because we don’t give them the means to do the job,” said Jeff Begley of the FSSS-CSN union.

“So we can throw money at it, but if we don’t fix this problem, like I say, it’ll be a short term solution.”

Applications for the new jobs and the training program will close this Friday.