The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) welcomes the economic measures announced Wednesday in response to COVID-19 while cautioning they represent the first essential steps needed to fully confront the outbreak facing the province and its people.
RNAO President Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite says details outlined by Finance Minister Rod Phillips in the provincial legislature will help health organizations, nurses and other providers continue this ongoing fight. “We thank the minister for recognizing our critical role in this fight. All we ask in return is that the government provides us with what we need, as health professionals, to save lives and keep everyone – including ourselves – as safe as possible during this time. The measures announced Wednesday are a start, and much more will need to be done,” says Dr. Cooper Brathwaite.
Such health measures include:
- $75 million for personal protective equipment and other essential medical supplies for frontline staff dealing with COVID-19
- A $160 million funding increase for public health specifically for monitoring, surveillance as well as lab and home testing for COVID-19, while also investing in virtual care and Telehealth Ontario
- $935 million for hospitals to help deal with capacity issues, $341 million for 1,000 acute care beds and 500 critical care beds, and assessment centres
- $243 million in funding to address surge capacity in long-term care, as well as funding for around-the-clock screening, more staffing for infection control, and supplies and equipment
- A dedicated $1 billion COVID-19 contingency fund for emerging needs related to the outbreak
RNAO commends the government for recognizing that now is not the time to balance the budget due to the enormous challenge facing Ontario. The shutdown of the province was an essential step to urge Ontarians to stay at home. At the same time, the government must provide the necessary supports for those who are in vulnerable situations and suffering as a result of the shutdown. It’s a fight RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun says she, RNAO members and other nurses are facing with knowledge, courage and compassion to ensure that people, especially seniors and homeless persons, have what they need to survive the pandemic.
“This pandemic has exposed gaps in our health system. We applaud the government for responding quickly to help fill the gaps we know exist. However, we are only in the early days and more financial investments will be needed,” says Dr. Grinspun, citing the need to ensure adequate quantities of essential supplies and equipment. Dr. Grinspun reiterated her demand that all health-care workers who are facing patients, residents or clients must have access to surgical masks. RNAO also continues to urge the government to secure sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect fellow colleagues and their patients when considering worst-case scenarios for the pandemic. Dr. Grinspun also points to the growing evidence from Italy, Spain and now New York regarding the urgent procurement of ventilators. “While the province announced it has purchased 300 ventilators, the actual need is at least 10 times greater – and there is no time to waste. The lives of thousands of people are at stake,” adds Dr. Grinspun.
Acknowledging the many Ontarians affected by the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, including those whose businesses have had to shut down and those not able to work, Dr. Cooper Brathwaite urged that evidence-based thinking and advice must prevail to save people’s lives, not overwhelm the health-care system and shorten the length of the outbreak in Ontario. “The government has to look at the evidence from other countries and take all measures, including investing where necessary, to save lives and spare Ontarians from the economic impacts of the outbreak. We know many people have been affected by this pandemic and we must stand together as one.”
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.