Nurses say the time for talk is over; concrete actions urgently needed to address the country’s nursing crisis

Location
Toronto
Date
Nov. 8, 2022

TORONTO, Nov. 8, 2022 – Nurses are dismayed that another meeting of provincial and federal officials has taken place without a concrete plan to address the country’s deepening nursing crisis. 

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is shocked the two-day meeting of health ministers and their federal counterpart in Vancouver yielded no results as health systems plummet and Canadians suffer delays in care. 

“We are still in the grip of the pandemic, entering flu season with emergency rooms across the country overwhelmed and Canadians experiencing record wait times for surgeries and diagnostic procedures. We need a way forward, not more talk without results,” says Dr. Claudette Holloway, RNAO’s president.

Holloway says Ottawa must step up and increase federal health transfers to the provinces and territories to meet a long list of underfunded health priorities, especially the severe nursing crisis. More money for primary care, home care, long-term care and mental health and addiction is also desperately needed. At the same time, “it is paramount to assure Canadians that new funding will be earmarked exclusively to strengthen universal access to care and not a dollar for private-for-profit care,” urges Holloway. 

Action on these priority areas requires predictable, stable funding. Health-care expenditures were once equally shared by federal and provincial governments, but Ottawa’s share has dropped to below 25 per cent and is projected to shrink even further to 20 per cent by 2030. “This is not acceptable,” says Holloway. 

Like the provinces, RNAO expects federal transfers to increase to 35 per cent and nurses insist there must be accountability mechanisms in the federal-provincial agreements. The federal demand for expanding the use of common key health indicators and building a countrywide health data system would advance such accountability. 

“We urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to make funding conditional on achieving crucial system-wide goals,” says Holloway. “Earmarking funding for specific areas such as hiring more RNs and NPs is the only way to ease the logjams Canadians are experiencing when seeking care,” adding “health system woes are not just being felt in hospitals. They extend right across the system from primary care to long-term care. Every sector is struggling. Patients need and deserve better,” adds Holloway.

RNAO’s CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun also warned that any funding from Ottawa must not go towards for-profit initiatives. “The crisis is health care continues to be exploited by for-profit interests and some politicians who advance illusory claims about the broad benefits of investment-driven health care when overwhelming evidence points to the opposite. Canadians take great pride in our publicly funded, not-for-profit delivered health system. Ottawa must play a leadership role in ensuring the principles and spirit of the Canada Health Act continue to be upheld. We’ve had enough of for-profit entities that favour shareholders over people and patients.”

Grinspun also insists that provincial governments take accountability and act to address the worsening nursing crisis. “Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones must immediately repeal Bill 124. The wage restraint legislation that limits annual pay increases to just one per cent has led to a mass exodus of RNs from the province. No amount of federal funding is going to end Ontario’s nursing crisis until nurses are competitively compensated. RNs, NPs and nursing students need to know they can build their careers in a province where their knowledge, skills and expertise are valued and respected. They cannot do that while Bill 124 remains in place,” urges Grinspun.   

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 TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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Contact info

Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)