Jeopardizing patient care & sending chill through profession
TORONTO, Jan. 17, 2005 – While Health Minister George Smitherman announced $200 million in transitional funding today to help hospitals balance their budgets, he acknowledged that hospitals would be allowed to cut the equivalent of 757 full-time nurses.
“The Minister is sanctioning hospitals to lay off nurses in the midst of a chronic nursing shortage – this despite his mantra to protect patient care,” said Irmajean Bajnok, the acting director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). “How can you possibly protect patient care by laying off nurses? This will send a chill through the profession and send nurses packing, either to other jurisdictions or to other professions,” she said.
Bajnok said the government’s approval of nursing layoffs is particularly puzzling, given its recent investments in full-time nursing positions and its commitment to hire an additional 8,000 nurses over its mandate. Though the minister claimed that some of the losses would be absorbed through attrition, early retirements and a reduction in overtime hours, Bajnok said that any way you look at it, there will fewer nurses, greater workloads and less patient care. This reality will not be lost on students considering nursing and will hurt employment prospects for new graduates.
RNAO supports the government’s health-care transformation agenda, including its plan to shift resources and services from the hospital to the community. But the government must be sensitive to the status of Ontario’s nursing workforce: Ontario has the third worst nurse-to-population ratio in the country; the second oldest nursing workforce in Canada; and is facing a huge wave of retirements in the next decade. RNAO believes the government should not have sent the message to hospitals and the public that it is acceptable to lay off nurses in today’s climate.
“RNAO remains committed to working with the government to ensure quality patient care while we work together on transforming the health-care system,” said Bajnok.
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.