“Last fall’s provincial election gave nurses the chance to see what priorities drive all the political parties,” says Mary Ferguson-Pare, President of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, which is organizing the visit to the Legislature. “It’s now time to get on with the business of making important changes towards reducing poverty, increasing affordable housing, ridding the environment of toxins, and building access to primary health care by enabling all health professionals to work to their full potential.”
Ferguson-Pare says RNAO members will press politicians on these issues because there is plenty of evidence that factors like poverty, the physical environment we live in and access to primary health care all play a significant role in health outcomes. RNAO says the need to immediately improve the public’s access to primary health care is why the association wants to see 12 of the 25 nurse-led clinics, promised during the election campaign, up and running in 2008.
The association’s ninth annual Day at Queen’s Park will also give members the chance to talk about other critical issues that directly affect nurses and the public they serve. Nurses want assurances that the government will deliver substantive funding, earmarked to full-time nursing employment, in the upcoming provincial budget.
“Targeted funding is crucial if the government is going to achieve its goals of increasing Ontario’s nursing workforce by 9,000 and having 70 per cent of nurses working full-time,” says Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of RNAO. “The nursing community is concerned with the sharp slowdown in the number of new RNs working in Ontario for the past two years,” she adds, stressing that this is unsafe for the public. “These numbers are not just a priority for RNAO members; they are key to providing the people who live in this vast province with the care they need and deserve.”
In meetings with politicians and their staff, nurses will also voice their ongoing concerns over public-private-partnerships, or P3, funding for hospitals. They will also raise the issue of competitive bidding in home care. “The new contracts for competitive bidding which are rolling out in communities like Hamilton, continue to disrupt the continuity of care patients are receiving, and it’s detrimental to staff in the sector who worry about their jobs when home care contracts change hands,” says Ferguson-Pare. Instead of competitive bidding, nurses want to see real improvement in the sector so Ontario’s aging population can access the best care at home. RNAO says that will take government investments in home care, and a moratorium on competitive bidding.
RNs will speak with more than 20 MPPs, and their staff members, including the Minister of Health, the leader and health critic of the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party’s Health Critic, and several cabinet Ministers.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied 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.