Austerity budget offers some signs of hope
TORONTO, May 1 2014 – There are a few signs of hope in Ontario's 2014 budget even though it remains an austerity plan, says the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO).
RNAO's President Rhonda Seidman-Carlson says while the budget boasts of new jobs being created, not enough new RN positions are being added to meet demands on the system. For example, the recent announcement to place 75 nurse practitioners in nursing homes over the next three years is good news for Ontario's seniors, but falls significantly short of what's needed. "We continue to be ranked second last when it comes to the number of RNs/population in Canada. We have to add 17,600 new positions just to bring us in line with the national average. So we are left asking the question, when is the province going to step up its commitment to Ontarios RNs," says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, adding "it's an example of bad health and economic policy when you consider the research associates RNs with lower complications and mortality rates."
While RNAO supports the 11.4 billion investment over 10 years in capital grants for infrastructure development for hospital expansions, RNAO Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun says "the association will continue to caution that these investments not be done through public private partnerships (P3) because the research consistently shows that these projects ends up costing more and delivering less."
Grinspun adds that when you compare the paltry sum of 300 million promised over the same period to shift care from hospitals to community settings, "it’s a drop in the bucket and will continue to leave Ontarians on the sidelines waiting for timely access to interprofessional primary care in their communities."
Building on the vision of nurses to help people be healthy, RNAO welcomes modest investments to help vulnerable Ontarians such as the increases for adult Ontario Works recipients and people who receive Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits; spending for affordable housing, enhancing an initiative to help the homelessness, as well as increasing and indexing the Ontario Child Benefit. "Nurses say they will continue to advocate on behalf of the working poor who require a minimum wage of $14 an hour to help lift them out of poverty. "In our view, the increase to $11 per hour even when tied to inflation is woefully inadequate," says Grinspun.
RNs also applaud the promise to dedicate $29 billion over 10 years for public transit and transportation. "This is a very important health measure that will reduce air pollution and gridlock in urban centres. Nurses will keep watch to ensure that no public assets are sold to fund this investment," says Seidman-Carlson.
In order the deliver the programs that are needed to create a healthy society, RNAO knows governments must have the fiscal capacity. That’s why the association welcomes new revenue measures such as the tax increases on higher income earners and tobacco. But RNAO's crunching of the numbers reveals that additional measures are necessary to keep pace with the province's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The fact is that revenue as a share of GDP is falling, and program spending is falling even faster in order to control the deficit. This continues a troublesome austerity trend.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses 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.
For more information about RNAO, visit our website at www.RNAO.ca.
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