Nurses warn the Ontario government is placing its focus on investors, not Ontarians’ health
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is gravely concerned that Premier Doug Ford’s government is focusing on investors and lobbyists, and not on the health of Ontarians. Legislation introduced Tuesday that promotes investor-driven surgical centres will not address system backlogs and will aggravate Ontario’s health crisis.
RNAO says the government should focus its efforts on treating the source of challenges facing the health system – they must retain and recruit more nurses through ensuring competitive compensation and healthy work environments. “We need to deal with the elephant in the room by taking immediate steps to make sure we have the nursing capacity to meet the care needs of people in this province,” says RNAO President Dr. Claudette Holloway.
“Our health system is not a commodity. The evidence shows that public health care costs less and provides higher quality care, and yet the government is choosing to prioritize investors over Ontarians,” says Holloway. “This legislation will result in greater concentration of wealth at one extreme of the income distribution and will bring poor health to those at the other extreme. We are witnessing the progression toward a two-tier system like south of the border. Ontarians deserve better,” Holloway adds.
“Instead of opening the door to investor-driven clinics, we should be expanding our current hospital capacity. Why are operating rooms (OR) in our hospitals unused evenings, nights and weekends barring emergencies? We should be leveraging existing OR capacity and other hospital services by using them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Infrastructure should not sit idle while we look for false solutions elsewhere,” asserts Holloway.
The RNAO president explains that “the first obligation of an investor-led independent health facility – legally – is to shareholders, not to patients.” She adds that these clinics will skim the profitable patients and burden the public system further when sicker and more complex patients in their care need to be transferred to a public hospital. The government announced that every physician employed by a clinic must have admitting privileges in a public hospital. The reason is clear: “As soon as the status of a patient worsens, physicians can transfer them to that hospital,” says Holloway. Thus, hospitals will carry the burden of sicker and more complex patients. “Instead of improving the critical shortage of nurses and other providers in the public hospitals, it will get worse,” adds Holloway.
RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun calls on the federal government to ensure that any money that flows to Ontario be used exclusively for publicly funded and delivered health services. “The federal government is accountable for setting-up conditions in its bilateral agreements to abandon plans for for-profit enrichment on the backs of Canadians’ health. For-profit delivery of medically necessary services is an affront to the principles and spirit of the Canada Health Act, and RNAO demands it be stopped,” urges Grinspun.
Included in the legislation are measures to allow health providers, including nurses registered in other provinces and territories, to begin practising in Ontario without having to wait to be registered by the province’s regulatory body. While RNAO supports moving to a coordinated and more mobile national regulatory system for nurses and other health providers, Grinspun noted nurses will not come to Ontario if compensation and workload concerns are not addressed. “Competitive compensation, safe workloads and healthy work environments are key to retaining and attracting nurses to build their careers in Ontario,” asserts Grinspun.
Regarding efforts to increase the available supply of registered nurses, nurse practitioners and registered practical nurses, Ontario must focus on the thousands of internationally educated nurses already living in Canada and awaiting registration and/or work permits. RNAO strongly opposes the recruitment of nurses from other jurisdictions nationally or internationally – in particular from developing countries. “We should not resolve our problems by aggravating those in other jurisdictions,” adds Grinspun.
Grinspun says RNAO will examine the legislation and subsequent regulations in detail. “It’s critical that any legislation related to our publicly funded health system allows adequate time for broad and in-depth consultations so nurses, other health professionals, and members of the public are heard,” insists 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 Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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