TORONTO, Jan. 27, 2009 – The professional association that speaks out for registered nurses in Ontario says the federal budget deserves marks for spending on infrastructure projects, social housing and modest measures to help low income families but misses a prime opportunity to build Canada’s health infrastructure by ensuring an adequate supply of nurses and other health providers to care for Canadians.
Among the investments announced today are funds to fix roads and bridges as well as construction and renovation projects at colleges and universities. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) agrees this is the appropriate time for substantial deficit spending and welcomes good paying jobs that will help sustain hard-hit communities. However, President Wendy Fucile stressed the need to reach out to those who study and teach on campuses across the country. “Construction jobs are important, but we also must invest in nursing education to avert an even worse nursing shortage.”
In the area of housing, RNAO applauds the government’s plan to spend $2 billion on social housing, with half of that going to renovate existing homes that are in dire need of repair. The commitment also earmarks funds to improve housing for people living in Aboriginal communities, for seniors and for those with disabilities. “We’re pleased the government has recognized the desperate need that exists but this area deserves a lot more attention. Like health, shelter is a basic human right and tens of thousands of Canadians do not have a decent roof over their heads,” says Fucile, adding “what’s really needed is a national housing strategy.”
On the broader issue of poverty, Fucile said changes in the Canada Child Tax Benefit would help some families but today’s announcement isn’t enough to help the more than 788,000 children who live in poverty across Canada. “Poverty is a significant determinant of health, yet there isn’t a single mention of poverty or child poverty in the whole budget document. Nor was there any commitment to child care spaces. That’s unacceptable.”
RNAO welcomes the government’s investment to encourage greater use of electronic health records. However, the association was also looking for a commitment to protect and strengthen the country’s publicly-funded, not-for-profit health-care system. Executive Director Doris Grinspun says a single-tier system makes good economic sense, and yet, there was no commitment in today’s budget to use the federal funding power to withhold health transfers when provinces violate the Canada Health Act. And given the rapid increase in the cost of drugs, Grinspun says nurses are also disappointed the government ignored the association’s recommendation to develop a national, publicly-funded pharmacare program covering essential drugs.
Grinspun says “the federal budget may have been born out of political necessity but the real test of the government’s commitment is how quickly the money promised today becomes a reality tomorrow.”
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association for registered nurses 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.
For more information:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario