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March 31, 2024

RNAO’s ongoing media profile: Your March 2024 report

media profile

In March, RNAO‘s president and CEO were featured in media stories related to pharmacare, the provincial budget, substance use, privatization, and Mexico as a newcomer to our robust Best Practice Spotlight Organization® (BPSO®) program.

On Feb. 29 , the federal government introduced a single-payer national pharmacare legislation – one of RNAO’s longstanding asks. The program includes coverage for specific medications such as for diabetes and contraceptives. In a media release (March 1), RNAO President Dr. Claudette Holloway said “this legislation is significant because it brings us one step closer to a comprehensive universal pharmacare program. When fully realized, it will advance equity and fairness in our health system.” RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun told Benefits and Pensions Monitor (March 7) that nurses support pharmacare, but the program must expand further. “We stand fully behind there being a single-payer system,” said Grinspun. “Our end goal for nurses is that it be comprehensive.” Sign and share RNAO’s Action Alert calling for the prime minister to quickly move the legislation so that a national program that benefits all Canadians becomes the law.

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland and Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Leigh Chapman released a nursing retention toolkit to support nurses. Grinspun told Zoomer Radio (March 5) that the toolkit addresses the critical issue of keeping nurses working but more must be done. “Retention is the key for recruitment. However, this report doesn’t include a plan and the minister didn’t announce any additional funding.” Grinspun reiterated what is needed on AM800 (March 5): “…stable employment, workloads that allow safe care and competitive compensation.”

On March 26, the provincial government introduced its 2024 budget, which included $546 million over three years for primary care expansion. In a media release (March 26), Holloway said that “this additional funding recognizes the role of the bilateral health agreement with the federal government in opening up access to primary care in Ontario.” There was $96 million in funding allocated for hospitals. Grinspun said that this funding should go towards keeping operating rooms open 24/7 to clear wait lists. “There is no need for investor-driven, for-profit surgical clinics when we have nurses and physicians already working in our publicly funded hospitals,” said Grinspun (The Trillium, March 27). The budget also included $128 million to permanently add 2,000 RN seats and 1,000 RPN seats in nursing programs at colleges and universities in the province – a move RNAO is delighted to see.  "This is not a new announcement, but it is important that it’s permanent. Meaning, we will be moving from 5000 graduates every year to 7000...For Ontarians, that’s significant,” Grinspun told 93.1 The Border (March 27). The budget also included $2 billion over three years in home care services, however, RNAO says this increase in funding is insufficient to bring the salaries of home care nurses in line with those who work in acute care. RNAO is disappointed that the budget offers no help and no comfort for those suffering with substance use. The budget also didn’t address the climate crisis.

In a letter to the editor to the Toronto Star (Feb. 29) about the ongoing drug toxicity crisis in Belleville that saw 35 overdoses and two deaths in the span of only six days, Grinspun called for more to be done. “Substance use is a health condition and should be treated as such. Belleville has made a plea for help to keep their citizens alive,” Grinspun wrote. “What is needed is a harm reduction strategy across the province, including funding for supervised consumption sites where people can consume drugs in a safe environment.” Add your voice to RNAO’s Action Alert: End the overdose crisis, premier.

A new primary care clinic in Ancaster is charging fees for NP services. This clinic is similar to ones in Ottawa and Kitchener that RNAO previously commented on. In The Trillium (Feb. 29), Grinspun said  “there should be no user fees. That’s the piece that RNAO opposes fervently because it will undermine the Canada Health Act – not only legally, but also the spirit.” RNAO supports NPs practising in team-based health-care clinics where they receive provincial funding. A clinic in Ottawa recently charged a woman $110 for a pap test. In a National Post letter to the editor written in response, Grinspun said that this is unacceptable. “Access to nurse practitioners must be covered by the province and not via a price tag to patients,” said Grinspun. Sign RNAO’s Action Alert to tell the premier to fully fund NPs to provide primary care without user fees.

RNAO was thrilled to announce expansion of its BPSO program to Mexico with two new organizations: the University of Monterrey and Christus Muguerza, which includes 15 hospitals. In a media release (March 14), Grinspun said “We look forward to working with Mexican leaders to support them as they engage in this social movement of science, implementing guidelines and evaluating their positive impact on patients, academic institutions and health systems around the world.” The announcement was also covered by several Mexican news outlets including Milenio (March 20), ABCNoticias.MX (March 20) and Revista Fortuna (March 19), and by a Canadian news outlet The Essential (March 24).

A Mississauga woman faces charges after forging nurse credentials and being hired at a long-term care home in Hamilton and another in Toronto. Without checking the credentials, they did not see that the woman was already on the College of Nurses of Ontario’s list of unregistered practitioners (those deemed not allowed to practise nursing). Grinspun told CBC News (March 22) that this is gravely concerning. “That would be considered negligence,” she said. In the Hamilton Spectator’s coverage of this story (March 22), Grinspun said that these reviews of credentials are crucial, especially with the shortage of health human resources: “Yes, there is a (nursing) shortage, but don’t buy that as an excuse. We have a duty to protect patients.” Grinspun said that nursing registration should be checked not only for new hires but every single year with renewal of registration. Holloway told Radio-Canada (March 22) “this is serious because nurses are held in very high regard by the public... The onus rests with the nursing home to do their due diligence.”

A November 2023 staffing agency update obtained by The Canadian Press found that hospitals and long-term care homes spent nearly $1 billion last year to staff agency nurses and PSWs. “We want to make sure our health-care dollars are spent in the most effective way. We want to support a publicly funded health-care system… We don’t blame nurses for going to work for agencies. As an entire health-care system we need to be on top of recruitment and retention,” said Holloway (CityNews, March 26).

Nearly 300 people have been moved from hospitals to long-term care homes not of their choosing under a law that places patients in homes up to 70 km away (150 km for those in Northern Ontario) or requires hospitals to charge them $400 per day if they refuse the transfer. On Zoomer Radio (March 21), Grinspun said that the current government and previous ones have not invested adequately in community care and that “the focus has always been hospitals and this is the situation.”

RNAO will continue to speak out alongside its members on topics related to nursing, health and health care. Stay up-to-date on media coverage by visiting RNAO in the news. If you’re interested in speaking with reporters on issues related to nursing, health and health care, complete a short survey and our communications team will be in touch.