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July 31, 2023

RNAO’s ongoing media profile: The July 2023 report

media profile

RNAO was featured in media stories this month about emergency room (ER) closures, surgery backlogs for children, the ongoing opioid overdose crisis, the wage increase for hospital nurses, RN prescribing and the call for an inquiry into Canada’s COVID-19 response.

The nursing shortage continues to be a major concern as ERs across Ontario have been forced to temporarily close. For example, on July 21, Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital in Ottawa announced it would be closing over the weekend, less than a week after its last temporary closure. RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun told The Trillium (July 11) that the provincial government needs to focus on adding more nurse practitioner-led clinics in communities across Ontario to help increase access to primary care. “People in many communities (do not have) access to primary care. Then they go to the ER and the ER is closed,” said Grinspun. The lack of adequate staffing is also impacting wait times for surgeries. As of May 2023, Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital said there are more than 2,400 children waiting for surgeries. Grinspun told CHCH News (July 21) that “funding for programs related to children, whether it’s surgical, community care (or) home care, are absolutely deficient in terms of the funding they get from the government.”

In a July 18 letter published in the Globe and Mail, Grinspun focused on the ongoing opioid overdose crisis and the need for the government to take action to help prevent deaths. “We urge Doug Ford to support and fund overdose prevention and supervised consumption services sites in every community in need; amend the province’s drug formulary to support safer supply; and petition the federal government to decriminalize simple drug possession,” said Grinspun. Sign RNAO’s Action Alert to call on the premier to end the opioid overdose crisis.

On July 20, an arbitrator ruled that Ontario’s hospital nurses will receive a wage increase of approximately 11 per cent on average over the next two years. RNAO issued a media release in response to the news highlighting that increased compensation is the first recommendation in its  Nursing Career Pathways report. President Dr. Claudette Holloway said the ruling “marks a new, more hopeful day for nurses and Ontarians, as without nurses the health system crumbles. You cannot have an effective health system when you underpay and undervalue the work of nurses.” On CP24 (July 20), Grinspun called it “a tremendously important first step towards justice for wrongdoing towards nurses.” She also told CityNews Kitchener (July 21) that while a wage increase will help, the province needs to focus on doing more to retain nurses: “What we needed desperately were measures of retention.” Holloway shared in an interview on The Mike Farwell Show (July 24) that the wage increase “is a significant step in the right direction to show value for nurses. This is a great start to help nurses stay in Ontario and we want to continue to see steps to build nurses’ careers here in Ontario.” On the same day, Holloway also told Zoomer Radio that “this will go a long way to show the value of nurses from an arbitrator’s point of view but we would also like to see the value of nursing from our government’s point of view.”

At the groundbreaking of a new long-term care home in Chatham, Minister of Long-Term Care (LTC) Paul Calandra noted that he is looking towards a future where LTC homes and home care can work together to administer scans or blood work instead of sending residents to the hospital. RNAO has been calling for RNs to be able to prescribe medications – first outlined in its 2016 Mind the Safety Gap report. Grinspun noted that RNs are trained to deal with common ailments, such as urinary tract infections, which routinely occur in LTC residents. Grinspun told Chatham Daily News (July 26) that “instead of sending residents for what we call ‘avoidable transfers’ to emergency departments, we should do all we can to treat residents in-place, meaning in their home.”

Canadian researchers are calling for an independent national inquiry into Canada’s COVID-19 strategy. This comes after a series of papers published by the British Medical Journal indicated that Canada underperformed in some areas of its pandemic response. For example, social inequities were evident in the number of Ontario’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, which were three times higher in the lowest-income neighbourhoods compared to the highest-income areas across various pandemic waves. Researchers also highlighted the large number of deaths in LTC homes. On AM800 (July 26), Grinspun said that national inquiries can be helpful to learn the future but can also be costly. “There are so many things that should have been done differently. I don’t know if a public inquiry will discover anything new but it wouldn’t hurt.”

RNAO will continue to speak out alongside its members. Check out our media coverage by visiting RNAO in the news.