TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2012 – The provincial government needs to inject an infusion of RNs into the health system if it’s serious about meeting the needs of patients. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) says data released by the College of Nurses of Ontario this week points to a disturbing trend. In the past two years, the number of RNs working in the system has dropped by more than 1,000.
The CNO numbers show that in 2010, there were 93,916 RNs, excluding nurse practitioners, working in Ontario. By 2012, that number dropped to 92,879. “The government and the opposition parties need to take this decline very seriously,” says Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s chief executive officer. “The ability to provide the public with timely, co-ordinated and expert care demands vigorous and concerted efforts to reverse this trend,” adds Grinspun.
During its second mandate, the Liberal government promised to hire 9,000 additional nurses, an increase RNAO strongly advocated for and argued was necessary to meet the health needs of Ontarians. “Now, the numbers are in and they tell us that the government didn’t meet its goal,” says Grinspun, pointing out that between 2008 and 2012, only 7,346 nurses were added to the system. “Ensuring a stable and adequate supply of RNs today and for tomorrow is paramount to providing timely and safe patient care. If action isn’t taken quickly, patient care will be compromised, it’s as simple as that,” adds Grinspun.
Another troubling trend in the numbers reveals that Ontario’s RN to population ratio is even lower today than it was two years ago. For every 10,000 people, there are 70.5 RNs compared to 2010 when the ratio was 72.6 RNs. “We already had the second lowest RN to population ratio in the country two years ago,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, RNAO’s president, adding that “the fact that this number is getting worse should set off alarm bells at the Ministry of Health.”
Even disappointing is the gain in the share of RNs working full-time. From 2011-2012, the proportion of RNs working full-time increased marginally from 67.9 per cent to 68.3 per cent, but the figures show it only went up because the number of part-time and casual positions decreased. “What we should see in the data is an actual increase in the number of RNs working full-time, but the numbers don’t support that,” says Seidman-Carlson.
The only apparent silver lining in the CNO report is the number of nurse practitioners working in Ontario. In 2010, there were 1,486 NPs working in the system. That number increased by 388 in 2012 to 1,874. “We are delighted to see that the knowledge and expertise that NPs bring to our system is being recognized with an increase in total positions,” says Seidman-Carlson.
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.