Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Ontario Need More RNs (Nursing Week RNAO/ONA media conference)

Good morning everyone. My name is Angela Cooper Brathwaite and I am the president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). Joining me is Vicki McKenna, President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association and RNAO’s Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun. I would like to thank everyone for coming today - this first day of National Nursing Week.

RNAO is the professional association for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Our mandate is to advocate for healthy public policy, promote excellence in nursing practice, and help influence and shape our health system.
ONA is the union representing registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

Any day now, Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to ask the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to dissolve the legislature. And on June 7, we will go to the polls to elect a new government.

Nurses consider the right to vote an immense privilege. It is also our responsibility as citizens.

Nurses represent the largest group of health professionals in the province. We play a central role in the health of individuals and communities.
Our day-to-day work provides us with a window on the impact policies have on people’s lives. We know the health system in and out, and we know how to make it function better for the benefit of all Ontarians. We use our knowledge and expertise in all sectors of the system and look after people of all ages, all social classes, all ethnicities, all religions, all sexual orientations and all gender identities.

And that’s why we are here today. The next four weeks represent a critical period in the history of our province. According to a poll conducted by Ipsos earlier this year, when people in Ontario were asked to list the top issues in the upcoming election, health care was the highest ranking issue. And when it comes to health care, access to nursing care has never been more important. Our collective commitment to our patients demands that we appear before you today, to issue an urgent call.

I will now hand things over to Vicki McKenna, president of ONA.

(Vicki McKenna)
Good morning, everyone.

As we mark the beginning of Nursing Week 2018 in Canada, a week of celebrations of the vibrant profession of nursing and all that nurses do to ensure their patients receive quality care, we are here together to step up our call for better care for our patients.

In addition to being ONA President, I am a registered nurse from the pediatric day surgery unit at London Health Sciences Centre.

Registered nurses are required to be patient advocates. We have the education and skills necessary to provide quality care to patients who are acutely ill and have unpredictable health outcomes. RNs provide care that cannot be provided by others.

That is why I am very pleased to be joining the RNAO today to speak out about the serious problem of RN vacancies in our hospitals.

For two decades, ONA has been sounding the alarm about the province’s RN shortage, and its impact on our patients’ care.

Ontario is in the shameful position of having the fewest RNs per population in Canada.

Now, ONA has obtained information that shows that across the province, our hospitals have more than 10,000 vacant RN positions that they are not posting or filling.

That is the equivalent of more than 19 million hours of RN care that our patients are not receiving each year.

As a result, the vital patient care provided by RNs is being eroded.

This is a tough challenge, but ONA and RNAO have solutions.

We know that by investing, posting and filling vacancies in our hospitals, we can begin to address the challenges.

Ontarians’ access to RN care can be fixed.

(Angela Cooper Brathwaite)
Thank you, Vicki. At this time, I will ask Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO, to speak.

(Doris Grinspun)
Thank you, Angela. Good morning everyone. I, too, would like to wish everyone a Happy Nursing Week.

As my colleagues have said, this is a week when we celebrate the important contributions of Ontario’s registered nurses (RNs), registered practical nurses (RPNs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and nursing students. It is a week where we also reflect on what is needed to optimize nursing care delivery. An essential part of that is ensuring they have access to the services of RNs, and this is the gap Ontarians have and that we must urgently correct.

Nurses build strong connections with the people, families and communities we care for, and they, in turn, give us a strong sense of what’s needed to improve their health and their health-care system.

There is clear evidence linking care provided by RNs with better health outcomes, improved patient satisfaction, and better financial outcomes for the health system. But the number of RNs-per-population in Ontario is at an all-time low, failing to keep pace with the province’s growing and aging population.

As you can see on the poster beside me, we have the lowest RN-to-population ratio in the country, in fact. The latest figures tell us that there are just 703 RNs for 100,000 people in Ontario compared with 839 RNs per 100,000 in the rest of the country.

Sadly, that is only part of the picture. The reality is that Ontario has lagged behind the rest of the country since 1990. And, since 2015, Ontario occupies the last place among the provinces and territories.

This is concerning to both RNAO and ONA and it should alarm politicians and members of the public. RN employment shouldn’t lag behind population growth. Between 2011 and 2017, Ontario’s population grew seven per cent, however, RN employment rose by just two per cent.

RNs are proud of their education, expertise and skills. But, right now in Ontario, Ontarians are being robbed of the rich knowledge and skills of RNs. Ask any nurse in any health-care setting, but especially in acute care and cancer hospitals, and they will tell you that their patients have more acute and more complex needs than ever before.

Budgetary considerations should not guide decisions regarding the hiring of RNs in our hospitals {or other sectors, for that matter}. Because those misguided budgetary decisions carry costs, both in term of people’s health and in real dollars.

As the professional association that has devoted itself to evidence-based policy-making and research, we have an obligation to speak out when short-sighted decisions run counter to the evidence. And the evidence is clear: Fewer RNs means a higher risk for patients. It means higher rates of morbidity and higher rates of mortality.

When RNs are on the job, not only is patient satisfaction higher, patients are less likely to experience infections, falls and pressure sore injuries. Lower readmission rates are also associated with RN care and as well fewer medication errors.

And, the evidence doesn’t stop there.

We also found that when RNs are on staff, there is also increased organizational safety, and greater cost savings overall.

The evidence I am citing has been compiled in the largest, publicly available database. 626 peer-reviewed studies, spanning 70 years and telling a story of RN effectiveness. Given this overwhelming evidence, it is imperative that Ontario reverse this (point to the poster) troubling trend and rebalance the RN workforce in this province.

And that is why in addition to posting and filling all 10,000 RN vacancies in our hospitals, we are also asking each political party to adopt in their platforms a commitment requiring all new nursing hires in acute care and cancer care hospitals to be RNs.

As my colleague Angela said, we are entering an important time in our province’s history. We need to ensure that political leaders, in fact, all candidates running for office, have the facts so sound evidence-based policies are adopted by the parties that hope to govern this province.

Patients and their families are counting on this.

And Ontario’s RNs are counting on this.

Thank you.

(Angela Cooper Brathwaite)
Thank you, Doris.

At this time, we are pleased to take questions from the media.

Resource Type: 
Speaking Notes