The shortage of doctors and nurses will be the main concern at the meeting of the prime ministers in BC

A group representing emergency room doctors across the country has a message for Canada’s prime ministers: Come up with a coordinated plan to prevent your workplaces from closing due to staffing shortages that are creating a crisis. unprecedented in healthcare.

Dr. Atul Kapur, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, said the premiers meeting in Victoria on Monday and Tuesday must prioritize the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals, and not just in the short term.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm about the shortage of doctors and nurses for quite some time,” Kapur said, adding that the temporary closure of emergency rooms is particularly concerning in rural areas because the next closest emergency room is often is far.

One of the biggest gaps in the health care system is a lack of nurses, said Kapur, an ER doctor in Ottawa.

“We recognize that our nursing colleagues are vital, that in (emergency) especially, the stress on them is even greater than it is on us because they bear more of the brunt of patient and family anger than we do.”

A lack of nurses on wards means patients who have been admitted to the hospital are languishing in emergency departments, leaving fewer available beds for those stuck in waiting rooms, including people without a family doctor, she said. Kapur.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that admitted patients across Canada waited 38.3 hours in emergency rooms in 2019-2020, up from 29.3 hours five years earlier. The total number of views soared to nearly 1.6 million during that time, up from just over 1.1 million.

The figures apply to 90 percent of patients, and Kapur said 10 percent waited even longer.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, chairman of the Federation Council made up of the country’s 13 prime ministers, joined his colleagues in calling on the federal government to increase its share of health care spending from 22 percent to 35 percent. percent in its attempt to implement initiatives aimed at improving the system.

Horgan said he met with Justin Trudeau last November when the prime minister visited British Columbia following catastrophic flooding. He said he has told Trudeau about the prime ministers’ concerns about health costs, which will be discussed at their first in-person meeting in three years.

Trudeau has promised to put together a team to work on health financing, but that has yet to materialize, Horgan said in an interview.

“Eight months of what I thought was going to be a concerted effort has produced nothing but a meeting in Victoria where we will all come together to express our deep disappointment at the lack of leadership from Ottawa,” he said.

Trudeau has said that the federal portion of spending on health care transfers will be negotiated after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Horgan, who criticized the April federal budget for not including funding for health, said he and his colleagues are ready to address Ottawa’s expectations of any accountability measures that would come with more money.

But prime ministers must first know what kinds of “conditions” will be attached to it, he said, adding that national solutions are needed to deal with problems affecting provinces and territories.

But Horgan suggested that he was not in favor of jurisdictions working together to license health care professionals nationally, allowing them to work anywhere in the country, because that would amount to “poaching” people after they were found. You have paid for your training.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province has an ambitious plan to rebuild its health care system and that the federal government can help by paying its fair share of health funds.

“The prime ministers have been asking the federal government to come to the table and be a real funding partner,” he said in a written statement.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that when universal health care was implemented in Canada, it was envisioned as a 50/50 split between the federal and provincial governments.

“COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in Canada’s health care system, and we must address those weaknesses for Canadians,” he said in a statement.

Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said allowing healthcare workers to be mobile would “relieve pressure points” as part of a solution to increase resources where they are needed.

“When a universal health system fails to meet the basic health care needs of Canadians, we must accept that it has failed and work together to fix it,” he said in a statement. “This will require more than just investing more money.”

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said some acute care and emergency departments that would have had 20 nurses now have half that number.

Legislation in Ontario that restricts wages has meant many nurses go to work for agencies so they have flexible hours and employer options, or leave the profession because of poor working conditions, Silas said.

“So the message I’m trying to give to prime ministers is: never in 30 years of union work have I seen nurses this angry. And they’re a tough bunch.”

Some prime ministers have indicated they will focus on other priorities at the meeting.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said during a recent press conference that he wants to address problems with Canada’s energy supply.

“Question No. 1 would be to take a very serious look at the policy positions that the Canadian government is taking that are preventing … the production of some of the most sustainable energy in the world,” Moe said.

Kenney said the premiers will also discuss domestic trade and how they can address the tens of billions of dollars in economic activity that is lost each year due to barriers imposed by the provinces.

Canada’s “historic labor shortage” is also a concern for Ford. Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson echoed the sentiment, saying less immigration during the pandemic has contributed to the problem.

“We need the federal government to work with us to address labor shortages to help ensure our economy stays strong during these challenging times,” Ford said in a statement.


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 10, 2022.


— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

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