Government's "too little, too late" approach leading to hospital sector collapse, says RNAO
The public health measures announced Monday by Premier Ford come too late and, as a result, are insufficient to protect the public and the hospital system from total collapse, says the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO).
"Premier Doug Ford's 'too little, too late approach' throughout this pandemic is reckless in the face of Omicron – a COVID-19 variant that has no mercy on anyone," says RNAO's CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun, adding "many experts did all we could to alert the premier and his team, pleading for swift action well ahead of the holiday season. But the premier chose to ignore us and it will now lead to suffering of indescribable proportions," warns Grinspun. "This was a tragic miscalculation by the premier and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.
"The announcement today does not match the gravity of the situation. We should have moved to stage 1," says Grinspun. Indeed, "Premier Ford's own admission that we can expect a tsunami of cases and hospitalizations attest to what is yet to come." Grinspun also calls out the head of Ontario Health for describing challenges in the health system as "staffing" shortages instead of calling them for what they are: "nursing" shortages. "These are nurses – RNs, RPNs and NPs – and they have been working flat out on behalf of Ontarians for 23 months, placing their health and private lives on hold. It's utterly disrespectful not to acknowledge their important role in the health system. You don't gain respect with disrespect," adds Grinspun.
"Calling on the support of home care when the sector has been depleted of nurses and has not been given priority for mandatory vaccination N95 masks, is another sign of disconnect with the reality on the ground that the government and its Ontario Health agency continuously display," says Grinspun.
"Today's news is another blow for students who could have returned to safe schools had the government acted weeks ago. The premier is asking for forgiveness from parents, instead of having shut the province down while children were on a scheduled break in December," says RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth.
"It is also another blow to the thousands of Ontarians who are awaiting diagnostic tests, procedures and surgeries, and who will need to wait even longer with inevitable increases in morbidity and mortality," Hoffarth adds. "This was completely avoidable had Premier Ford and Dr. Moore listened and acted earlier. Omicron will continue to wreak havoc on hospitals and other health settings because of the government's delay in making timely decisions."
Hoffarth says RNAO continues to call on Premier Ford to urgently announce an important public health measure that would address the related crisis facing Ontario: the nursing crisis. In the wake of rising cases, hospitals and other health settings are coping with a shortage of RNs due to Bill 124 – legislation the government imposed limiting wage increases to one per cent and reducing their salaries when inflation is taken into account. "RNs are leaving the profession because the government has refused to repeal this bill. They consider this a betrayal when you look at how long they have been caring for patients – for almost two years at a relentless pace, with higher case loads, without days off, and with all the risks this pandemic presents. We are imploring the premier to do the one thing that will help reverse the exodus we are seeing in the profession and that means repealing Bill 124," says Hoffarth.
RNAO urges all Ontarians to get vaccinated. And for those who already have their first two shots, to get their booster. The association also calls on members of the public to not enter public spaces unless it is absolutely essential and to do so wearing a well-fitted mask. The virus is airborne – it spreads through the air, like smoke – and it takes very little to be transmitted. RNAO also recommends people remain within their own small bubble, if at all possible, at least for the next three weeks.
RNAO thanks nurses (RNs, RPNs and NPs), physicians and all other health-care providers working on the front lines battling Omicron to ameliorate suffering and to save lives.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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