TORONTO, February 15, 2012 – A treatment plan aimed at how Ontario should handle its spending priorities in the face of a record deficit is getting mixed reaction from nurses who say some proposals, if enacted by the government, will lead the province down the for-profit path.
The long-awaited report by the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services and its 362 recommendations, more than 100 for health alone, was unveiled Wednesday by commission chair Don Drummond.
“We all recognize the need to strengthen the health system to provide efficient, timely and better care for patients. We are disappointed, however, that the Drummond Commission overstepped its mandate by making policy recommendations that steer the province to health care privatization,” says David McNeil, president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). McNeil is referring to recommendations about tendering specialist services to ‘private, for-profit entities.’ McNeil says “this market approach to health care goes against the research that shows care provided in not-for-profit health-care settings delivers better health outcomes for less money.”
Agreeing with the Drummond report on the need for more home care and community services, McNeil insists the not-for-profit sector should be favoured in delivering these services.
RNAO says Drummond’s recommendation to hold spending for social programs translates into a real per capital cut of 18 per cent over the next seven years. “This is shortsighted; cuts to social programs that shape a person’s ability to be healthy will cost government more in the long run,” says McNeil.
The association does applaud the recommendation to bring primary care under the control of Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN). “We’ve long said that more integration is needed and ensuring people have timely access to a primary care provider such as a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse or family physician, is key to keeping people healthy and out of the hospital as long as possible,” says RNAO’s executive director Doris Grinspun adding that “this is also the best way to delay and lessen chronic conditions and avoid complications, which is critical when faced with a growing and aging population.”
RNAO is also pleased that the Drummond report acknowledges the central role nurses play in the health system, and recognizes the potential for improved health outcomes and cost savings by expanding their role and building more capacity in nursing programs to educate more nurses. “When every registered nurse in this province is working to full scope of practice, Ontarians will get better value for their health-care dollar,” says Grinspun adding the province should look to jurisdictions such as the UK that allow registered nurses to prescribe medications within their scope.
Grinspun says RNAO has shared plenty of cost efficient and innovative ideas to transform the health system with the government and Drummond himself, such as expanding the 26 funded primary care Nurse Practitioner-led clinics by adding more NPs so they can take on more patients, and opening new clinics in areas of need.
RNAO supports wholeheartedly the recommendation to ensure that evidence-based care becomes the norm. “For more than a decade, RNAO has been the leader in developing and implementing clinical practice guidelines (CPG) for nurses. There is no need to reinvent the wheel because these guidelines are improving patient care and saving precious health-care dollars,” says Grinspun adding that they have been adopted by health-care organizations across Ontario, Canada and internationally.
The association says the real test of the Drummond report’s many recommendations will come next month, when the Ontario government unveils its budget and in the months ahead. But before that, RNAO urges the government to set up public consultations so Ontarians have a say in the conversation about the challenges facing the province.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated 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.