TORONTO, Jan. 27, 2005 – Ten days after Health Minister George Smitherman announced that the equivalent of 757 full-time RNs will be cut from Ontario hospitals, 130 leaders of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) are heading to Queen’s Park to ask the government to help repair the damage done to the nursing profession and patient care – before it’s too late.
During RNAO’s 6th Annual Day at Queen’s Park, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 28, RNs and nursing students from across Ontario will demand that government decisions on health-care spending take into account the province’s chronic nursing shortage in all health-care settings. Ontario has the second-oldest nursing workforce in Canada and the third worst nurse-to-population ratio in the country. On top of that, more than 50 per cent of today’s nursing workforce will be eligible to retire within the next 10 years. Until the shortage is addressed, says RNAO president Joan Lesmond, any reduction in RN services will compromise quality patient care.
RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun says that registered nurses need a strong signal from the government – no later than the spring budget – that the profession will not be hit with further set-backs and that public investments in nursing will continue so nurses can provide the quality care that the Ontario public needs and deserves. Grinspun will remind the Minister of the infusion of health-care funding from the federal government and the health-care premium. Some of that funding should be targeted to more funding for full-time RN positions to reach the government’s 70 per cent target, to resources for late-career RNs to stay on the job, and to improved conditions for community nursing.
“It is unfortunate that this serious misstep by the government is impeding it from getting on with positive health reform like expanding primary health care, strengthening home health care, and revitalizing public health. The government must get back on track,” says Grinspun.
Student nursing leaders will ask the Minister to reassure the next generation of nurses that they haven’t made the wrong choice in pursuing a career in nursing in Ontario. If no positive signal is sent, RNs will leave the province, the country, or the profession. This week alone, Lesmond reports, RNAO received a call from an out-of-province health-care organization offering to hire any fed-up or laid-off Ontario nurses.
At Queen’s Park Day, RNAO members will hear from Minister Smitherman, PC Leader John Tory, and NDP Leader Howard Hampton. The nurses will have an opportunity to quiz the politicians on a range of health-care issues of great importance to Ontarians, including: primary health-care reform; changes to long-term care legislation; improvements to elder health and elder care; a ban on further for-profit health-care delivery; and the future direction of home-care services in Ontario. RNs will also meet with other MPPs to focus on health-care reform, not-for-profit delivery and the sustainability of medicare, and reversing cuts to nursing to protect patient care.
More than 130 RNs and nursing students from across Ontario.
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.