Horwath visits London, pushes government to hire more nurses

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath holds a healthcare news conference at Doidge Park in London. (Craig Needles/Blackburn Media)

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath had a clear message for the Ford government on Wednesday morning: Hire more nurses.

Speaking at Doidge Park in London, with St. Joseph’s Health Care in the background, Horwath slammed Ford for capping nurse’s pay and leaving hospitals short staffed.

“We’ve seen the burnout. We’ve seen the stress. We’ve seen the challenges that these healthcare workers have been facing,” Horwath said. “We need to make sure we have a plan that not only maintains existing nurses and healthcare workers, but adds more nurses to the system.”

Flanked by London MPPs Peggy Sattler, Terence Kernaghan, and Teresa Armstrong, Horwath attacked staffing levels at hospitals all over the province – including in London.

“London Health Sciences, I think they’re short 82 nurses as we speak,” she said.

When pressed on the costs of hiring more nurses in Ontario, Horwath said it’s about priorities.

“What is the most valued public service that Ontarians rely on? It’s healthcare,” Horwath said. “What we wouldn’t be doing is giving big tax breaks to Ford’s buddies, the way Ford has done.”

The government has recently announced big spending for hospital infrastructure upgrades, but Horwath said that isn’t enough.

“There’s no doubt that the hospital sector and the long-term care sector were sorely neglected by the Liberals for 15 years,” Horwath said. “There’s no doubt that long-term care was on its knees before the pandemic hit. But there’s also no doubt that the Ford government knew that. They chose not to make those investments.”

“We need to make sure our hospitals are in a good state of repair.”

Horwath also said she would repeal Bill 124 if she becomes Premier, which she says caps the wages nurses can make.

At Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy was asked about the bill and how nurses are doing during the pandemic.

“They are stressed out. They are working around the clock. They are, you know, keeping our health care system working. So I would say thank you and I would say, you know, we’re going to have a lot more to say in the Fall Economic Statement because we really appreciate the work that they’re doing,” the Minister said. “If I can touch on Bill 124, which you’re referencing the increasing of one per cent per annum for three years, you know, that’s that’s not a wage freeze or roll back. That’s a very reasonable bill that we put in place before COVID.”