Ontario Nurses offer solutions to shortages of heath-care professionals

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The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) says a pre-budget submission outlines solutions to fix the nursing and health-care professional staffing shortages plaguing Ontario’s health-care system.

ONA President Cathryn Hoy said health-care professionals are beyond overworked and burnt out.   She added short staffing may not allow nurses to deliver the care our patients, residents and clients need and deserve.

Hoy adds the ONA has nine specific concrete solutions and actions, starting with the government repealing Bill 124.  She pointed out the wage suppression legislation is a large part of the disrespect of nurses that is fueling an exodus from the profession.

She adds there’s been a domino effect of unmanageable patient assignments that have increased overtime, extreme stress, and burnout in addition to managing health and safety protocols.

Hoy explained, “Nurses and health-care professionals have suffered long enough under this discriminatory legislation and it’s time for Premier Ford to listen to our more than 68,000 nurses and health-care professionals and repeal this once and for all.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic – combined with Bills 175 and 195 passed by this government – have been the breaking point for many nurses and health-care professionals. There’s been a domino effect of unmanageable patient assignments that have increased overtime, extreme stress, and burnout in addition to managing health and safety protocols.

“Any short-sighted budget decisions that are made by the Ford government will be bad news for the health of Ontarians,” notes Hoy. “ONA has provided nine strong recommendations that will begin to rebuild health care so that patients, residents and clients can access the care they deserve. The money is there – Premier Ford simply needs to direct it to frontlines. We urge him to begin to work collaboratively with ONA, for the well-being of all Ontarians.”

Summary of ONA Recommendations for Ontario Budget 2022

ONA proposes the following recommendations for Ontario Budget 2022:
1. Keep existing nurses and health-care workers from leaving their profession by improving their working conditions and showing them respect:
• Repeal Bill 124, wage suppression legislation, in order to improve retention and recruitment of registered nurses (RNs) in Ontario and restore the right to collective bargaining.
• Repeal Bill 195, which allows employers to strip RNs of hard-won constitutional contract rights outside of a state of emergency.
• Guarantee access to N95s or a higher level of protection for all health-care workers, to protect them from airborne transmission of COVID-19. Fund made-in Ontario personal protective  equipment (PPE) to ensure a readily available supply.
• Develop retention strategies to keep experienced nurses in their jobs and available for mentorship.
• Implement 10 permanent paid sick days for all workers.
• Fund wage parity with hospitals across all health sectors and create more full-time nursing positions to reach a minimum 70 per cent full-time.
• Expand funding and access to mental health services, focusing on in-person psychological supports.
• Sign the agreement with the federal government to ensure parents have access to $10-a-day child care.
2. Bolster the health workforce and plan for the future:
• Launch a robust recruitment strategy to bridge the RN care gap. For Ontario to reach the average RN-to-population staffing ratio in Canada, the province needs to hire at least 22,000 net new RNs to enable the appropriate and safe staffing of hospitals and in other sectors.
• Increase the number of RN seats at Ontario universities and college standalone programs and ramp up the financial supports, including Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants and stipends for clinical placements.
• Expand bridging programs, in particular from RPN to RN, at publicly funded universities and colleges, including tuition support and stipends.
• Fund new jobs for late-career and recently retired nurses to mentor and support nursing students and new nurses.
• Improve working conditions to attract more workers.
3. On the SARS Commission recommendations:
• Fully implement – and appropriately fund where necessary – the precautionary principle in all health-care facilities.
• Strengthen the independence of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH). Justice Campbell observed that the CMOH needs a “greater degree of actual and perceived independence from government.”
• Make the CMOH accountable for provincial pandemic preparedness, which should include all sectors of the health-care system including long-term care. The CMOH must publicly report, on an annual basis, to the Legislature, on the state of Ontario’s public health emergency preparedness, and make recommendations to address any shortcomings. These plans should be carefully monitored and updated.
• Stockpile three months’ supply of PPE for all health-care facilities in the province.
• Empower Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors to properly investigate allegations of violations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
4. In hospitals:
• Permanently raise the annual funding escalator for Ontario hospitals and acute care facilities by a minimum of five per cent to meet estimated annual increases in cost pressures, pre-pandemic, with binding targets to eliminate hallway health care.
5. In public health:
• Permanently reverse the announced 2019 cuts and provincially fund public health programs and services at 100 per cent to ensure consistent service provision and resilience to outbreaks  throughout the province. Develop a clear plan to ensure the recruitment and retention of front-line public health nurses.
6. In long-term care:
• Fast-track care levels to four hours of direct care by RNs, registered practical nurses (RPNs) and personal support workers (PSWs) per resident per day. This should be a minimum care standard set within each long-term care home not as a provincial or Ministry target.
• Ensure a skill mix that is appropriate for resident care: 20 per cent of the four hours of direct care provided by RNs, 25 per cent by RPNs, 55 per cent by PSWs and one nurse practitioner (NP) for every 120 residents.
• Phase out “for profit” long-term care homes within five years. New bed licenses should not be awarded to for-profit homes.
• Repeal Bill 218 that shields long-term care owners and operators from liability for their negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. In home and community care:
• Protect the jobs and employment conditions of care coordinators and direct care staff currently employed in Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS) in the public sector.
• Stop privatization in home and community care to improve continuity of care for patients and address some of the root causes behind hospital overcrowding and hallway health care.
• End the practice of competitive bidding among for-profit home care providers.
8. Tackle head on the growing epidemic of violence in health-care settings across Ontario by improving staffing levels and by fully implementing the recommendations in the Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care Progress Report.
9. Immediately reverse changes that allow surpluses in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Insurance Fund to be distributed over certain levels to businesses. Increase supports  through WSIB for front-line and essential workers with COVID-related mental stress claims and claims from those suffering with long-haul, post-workplace COVID symptoms.