Ontario invests $ 100 million to add 2,000 more nurses in the coming years

It’s time to win while learning in nursing homes as the province works to improve care and increase staffing levels that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario is launching a $ 100 million program to help personal support workers become registered practical nurses and for RPNs to upgrade to registered nurses. Also, nurses trained abroad can get financial help to get their credentials here.

The money will go toward tuition and living for PSWs and RPNs “who want to take the next step in their careers,” Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said Wednesday, a day after promising the province will double. the number of inspectors who will keep an eye on nursing homes for next fall.

The program announced by Phillips and Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop, which provides up to $ 6,000 a year for PSW and $ 10,000 for RPNs to upgrade, will also offer up to $ 5,000 a year to cover the costs of course materials. , tutoring, child care and travel.

The program, called the Beginning Nursing Education Scholarship, is expected to result in another 2,000 RPNs and RNs in nursing homes within four years, when Prime Minister Doug Ford has said that nursing home residents will receive four hours. daily hands-on care. an increase of one hour and 22 minutes from the current average level.

Caregiver advocate Vivian Stamatopoulos said the government must take stronger action to boost nursing standards sooner.

“It is a drop in the bucket and the schedule is unacceptable. We need more nurses now. It attracts those who left. “

Practical care for nursing home residents includes toileting, bathing, feeding, grooming, and dressing, mostly provided by personal support workers.

Previously, the government has taken steps to increase the supply of PSW, providing free tuition for thousands in community college programs as part of a $ 4.9 billion effort to hire 27,000 more nursing home workers to meet the standard of four hours of care in stages until 2025.

Phillips and Dunlop announced the Career Bridge Program to Raise Nursing Standards as a lobby group for nonprofit, city-run and charitable nursing homes urged the Ford government to stop providing taxpayer funds for for-profit nursing home operators to build new beds to ease long waiting lists.

“The government is going in the wrong direction,” said AdvantAge Ontario CEO Lisa Levin, calling for all new funding to go to the nonprofit sector.

“Ontario nonprofits reinvest any surplus they may have on their residents. In for-profit households, surpluses are returned to corporate shareholders. “

Phillips said 10,000 much-needed nursing home beds are being worked on in the for-profit sector on about 140 projects, which will be closely watched by new inspectors under the proposed legislation next Thursday.

“We are going to spend the money building beds, protecting the elderly.”

In its recommendations last May, Ontario’s COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission targeted nursing home ownership by some for-profit corporations, saying that “caring should be the sole focus of the entities responsible for long-term care homes ”.

The commissioners, who were tasked with analyzing the large number of victims of the pandemic in nursing homes where nearly 4,000 residents died from the coronavirus, said that private capital could be used to rebuild the sector in the same way as hospitals, courthouses and light rail lines are being used. founded.”

Several homes run by for-profit operators had the most serious and deadly outbreaks of COVID-19.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for The Star. Follow him on Twitter: @ robferguson1


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