TORONTO, May 18, 2004 - If you are among the thousands of Ontarians waiting to find out when your access to home health care and primary health care services will improve, today’s provincial budget is welcome news.
“This budget promises transformational change by investing in public health, primary health care (including important increases in community health centres), home health care and long-term care,” said RNAO president Joan Lesmond. “And, transformational change can occur only with nurses at the centre. Government announced today a substantive package for nursing and we look forward to working out the details with Minister Smitherman.”
RNAO welcomes new funding for health care, but there are still pressing needs that are not explicitly dealt with in this budget. Ontario is poised to lose 6,000 RNs to retirement or death in 2004. “The $2 million allocated to support mentoring new grads is a good down payment on what should be a larger investment,” RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun said. “The promise to create 8,000 full-time nursing positions is comforting, but we risk losing many new grads to the US and other provinces if we do not immediately create full-time positions for them. New grads were desperately looking for good news in this budget.”
“We congratulate Premier McGuinty and Minister Sorbara for having the courage to listen to Ontarians who asked the government to rebuild public services. To pay for that, government has chosen to address its structural revenue shortfall by increasing taxes,” said Grinspun. “RNAO has recommended tax increases for the past two years. We fully endorse the increases on tobacco and alcohol taxes, but would have preferred an increase in personal income tax rather than the new health-care premium that, in our view, is less fair and less efficient.”
On the issue of education, Grinspun says: “Ontarians are the real winners with the government’s decision to double the number of clinical education seats for nurse practitioners. At the end of the day, this will greatly improve access to primary health care. We commend the government for heeding our call for the creation of a nursing faculty fund to raise the number of post-graduate nurses.” This is vital to address the looming loss of many nursing faculty to retirement (91.6 per cent of faculty are 45 or older).
We are extremely pleased that hospitals will receive multi-year funding, allowing them greater stability for planning services and health human resources. Nurses have long suffered unstable employment as a result of stop-go funding. New funding allocations should allow all sectors, including hospitals, to open their doors to any registered nurse who wants full-time work – whether it’s a nurse with experience, or a new nursing grad. RNAO urges government to use the same approach to the community and long-term care sectors.
“The budget is a clear expression that this government has a heart for vulnerable populations,” Grinspun said. “Although very modest, the investments in women’s shelters, counselling agencies, second-stage housing, supportive housing, and breakfast programs signal positive directions to address the determinants of health. We will work with the government to strengthen these efforts. The three per cent increase in social assistance rates scarcely keeps ahead of inflation, and does little to catch up with huge past losses.”
RNAO also applauds other important initiatives that support healthier living and work environments: earmarked commitments to public transit, smoke-free workplaces and public spaces, and increased support for public health.
“The number one issue for nurses – and the public – in this budget is securing a strong and sustainable publicly funded, not-for-profit health-care system,” said Grinspun. “The first and fastest way to do that is to fully implement the health reform and human resource reforms that Ontarians need. This budget is a solid step in that direction.”
“RNAO’s first commitment is to Ontarians, and the association intends to continue to influence government decisions to repair the social safety net and restore public trust in health and social services,” said Lesmond.
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.-30-