The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) believes there is no recovery from COVID-19 if we leave the most vulnerable persons behind. This is why RNAO is joining A Just Recovery for All – a global movement that puts people first and demands transformative action to build a more resilient, equitable society in the midst and after COVID-19.
RNAO endorses all six principles for A Just Recovery for All and will focus its own attention on two priority groups as part of this groundbreaking movement: the elderly, particularly those living in long-term care (LTC) homes, and persons who experience homelessness. Both of these groups were hardest hit by COVID-19, and both are in need of urgent policy and funding action.
These populations are embodied in the Just Recovery principles and respond to RNAO’s long-standing commitment to tackle the profound inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. To this end, RNAO issued a letter on Aug. 27, 2020 urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to substantively invest in Canada’s elderly and people who experience homelessness, as a central focus of the PM’s upcoming Speech from the Throne.
“Our failure to protect our seniors who succumbed to COVID-19 must be addressed through a national response, and we implore the prime minister and MPs from all parties to support RNAO’s Nursing Home Basic Care Guarantee as a national standard in response to the crisis in LTC homes,” says RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun.
The guarantee includes:
- Ensure each LTC home provides a minimum of four (4) worked hours of direct nursing and personal care for each resident per 24 hours, according to the following staff mix formula:
- a minimum of 48 minutes of worked hours of RN direct care
- a minimum of 60 minutes of RPN/LPN direct care
- a minimum of 132 minutes of PSW direct care
- Ensure each LTC home employs a full-time equivalent (FTE) NP per 120 residents, as attending nurse practitioner (NP). In regions where there is a shortage of NPs, employ a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
- Ensure each LTC home employs an FTE nursing staff member (preferably an RN) to support the functions of infection prevention and control, quality improvement, staff education, on boarding and orientation.
- Ensure each LTC home implements the following mandated human resources standards:
- mandate that LTC staff (RNs, RPNs/LPNs, PSWs) only work in one LTC home
- ensure nursing and personal care salaries in LTC are commensurate with those paid to health workers in other sectors, such as hospitals
- ensure full‐time employment with benefits is offered to staff who want full‐time work, enabling continuity of care for residents, and improved staff retention
- Ensure each LTC home has a complement of interprofessional staff, including: physiotherapy, rehabilitation therapy, speech therapy, social work, dietary and dental care.
The pandemic also highlighted how those who experience homelessness are far more vulnerable to illness and disease than those with a place to call home. Public health advice during the pandemic reinforced the importance of housing as a defence against COVID-19. “Stay home, self-isolate, wash hands frequently,” has been the constant mantra for months. Yet each year, nearly 250,000 Canadians experience homelessness – 35,000 on any given night. “Homelessness is a product of decades of public policy choices by successive governments, and is not acceptable in a country as wealthy as ours,” says RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth.
RNAO says the federal government should adopt a community-based response to homelessness, which includes a basic income, housing, advocacy for homeless persons, a re-think of the financing of rental housing markets, and a greater focus on an Indigenous housing and homeless strategy. Such a plan is consistent with A Just Recovery for All, makes economic sense, and will spur Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery by building housing infrastructure, creating jobs and saving taxpayers over $18 billion.
Ensuring A Just Recovery also means accounting for the expertise of Canada’s largest health-care workforce: nurses.
Calling nurses heroes, as it often happens during COVID-19, is not enough. On this, The Year of The Nurse, RNAO urges, once again, that our prime minister reinstate the role of a national chief nursing officer. Such a position will enable greater and more strategic deployment of nurses in our health system, and an expanded scope of practice for nurses to support a strong health system anchored in primary care. “The fight against COVID-19 is far from over. A second wave is inevitable and we must be armed with the right resources and approaches to ensure lives are saved,” adds Hoffarth.
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 they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.