Balanced approach to Ontario budget will lead to increased access for health care and greater fairness and equity for the poor, says RNAO
TORONTO, Jan. 16, 2014 – The top professional association that represents registered nurses across the province appeared before an all-party pre-budget committee today to insist that Premier Kathleen Wynne's government put austerity behind, and do what it takes to ensure people's health-care needs are met and that people living with low income get the assistance they require to lift them out of poverty.
RNAO's Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun and the association's Senior Economist Kim Jarvi delivered the association's submission today to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
"We know the government is concerned about the economy and so are we, but there are serious and growing social, environmental and health-care deficits that also need attention," said Dr. Grinspun. Grinspun is referring to the minimum wage, which has not been increased since 2010, leaving the working poor further behind.
Grinspun says RNAO wants to see a return to yearly increases as the Liberal government did up to 2010. "It's unconscionable that we have a growing class of working poor in this province. People deserve to be able to earn a livable wage and shouldn't have to work two or three jobs just to feed their families." Grinspun adds the health effects of poverty are palpable to members in their daily practice.
RNAO's recommendations include:
- Immediately increase the minimum wage to $14, and automatically index it to the rate of inflation in order to bring workers above the Low Income Measure of poverty.
- Improve access to affordable housing and stimulate job creation in the process.
- Transform the social assistance system to reflect the actual cost of living.
RNAO is also recommending that the government live up to the promise Premier Wynne made to nurses last spring to increase their scope of practice. RNAO President Rhonda Seidman-Carlson says this will dramatically improve access to health services and take full advantage of the knowledge and skills of RNs.
In addition to making more effective use of existing RNs, Seidman-Carlson says "the government also has to get to work reversing a disturbing trend that has seen the province's RN-to-population ratio drop below the national average." Blaming austerity measures that affected registered nurses especially hard and that resulted in reduced access to RN services, Ontario has the second worst RN-to-population ratio in the country, and needs almost 17,600 more RNs to catch up.
RNAO has five recommendations related to nursing care:
- Narrow the gap of about 17,600 RN positions by immediately focusing attention on RN recruitment and retention.
- Protect the safety of our seniors and, to ensure their timely access to quality care, phase in new minimum staffing standards in long-term care, starting with a minimum of one nurse practitioner per 120 residents.
- Focus on ensuring 70 per cent full-time employment for all nurses, so that patients have continuity in their care and care provider.
- Maximize and expand the role of RNs to deliver a broader range of care, such as ordering lab tests and prescribing medications to improve access to care for Ontarians and optimize outcomes.
- Secure fair and competitive wages for nurses and nurse practitioners working in all sectors of health care.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.