Ontario health workers, advocates and politicians say they are “deeply concerned” by the slew of healthcare and long-term care announcements released Thursday, claiming the plan prioritizes private solutions to public problems. .
The announcements, which were made under the umbrella of Ontario’s ‘Plan to Stay Open’, came as hospital emergency rooms struggle to stay open due to staffing shortages and the backlog of surgeries continues to grow.
The province’s plan for the “stability and recovery of the health care system” involves freeing up beds in hospitals and long-term care facilities, hiring thousands of new health workers, and investing in independent and private clinics that offer OHIP services.
Shortly after Ontario officials released the plan, unions and health care workers criticized the government’s efforts, saying they had “serious concerns.”
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) said the government’s plan is simply “a brazen move that will line the pockets of investors, nothing more”.
“Today’s government announcement is nothing more than moving deck chairs on the Titanic. Placing patients in ‘vacant’ long-term care beds and ‘alternative health facilities’ is another disaster waiting to happen,” ONA President Cathryn Hoy said in a statement.
“As we have witnessed over the past two years, our long-term care system is plagued with significant challenges, including staffing nurses and health care workers. Adding more patients and residents will only create additional chaos.” .
Hoy says the government missed an opportunity to discuss supports for nurses, particularly salary increases, which they say is a big reason why nurses are moving to private practice. agencies instead of being held in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Instead, the plan expands funding for hospitals to redeploy doctors to emergency rooms, but says nothing about House Bill 124, legislation that limits nurses’ wages to a one percent annual increase.
The government said it will also “stabilize agency fees,” which are significantly higher than the salaries paid to provincial nurses.
Unifor, a union that represents more than 30,000 health and social service workers, said its members “are not doing well” and that is why many go to work with agencies.
“They have worked through a humanitarian crisis, and yet there is still little relief in sight for them. They see their co-workers leaving the industry altogether, or taking agency jobs that double their pay and allow them the job flexibility they need.” they need.” National President Lana Payne said in a letter to Prime Minister Doug Ford.
“Most are still constrained by Bill 124 and the antiquated arbitration system that takes away their right to legally strike has failed them.”
Payne says the government’s $5,000 retention bonus for nurses, something PCs bring up almost every time Bill 124 is mentioned, is “too little too late.”
“Our health care system is about more than nurses and PSWs, and staffing shortages are seen across the spectrum, from cleaners to paramedics to technologists to cooks,” Payne writes.
“Hospitals and other employers are resorting to desperate measures including excessive overtime and costly agency use. This crisis is not about money. Privatization always costs more, offers less and is not a viable solution.”
Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician, took to Twitter to ask how the government’s “Plan to Stay Open” helps nurses in Ontario.
“The ‘Plan to Stay Open’ has no real plan to repeal House Bill 124 and retain nurses in our public health system,” she writes. Can someone please tell the Ontario government that there is no health care system without nurses providing the actual care within the health care system?”
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Ontario Registered Nurses Association told CP24 that the plan to increase the number of nurse practitioners and promote internationally recruited nurses through the system is a positive step.
“The fact that they are finally addressing the issue of internationally educated nurses is important and needs to be recognized,” said Doris Grinspun.
At the same time, Grinspun said it was “absurd” that Bill 124 still exists and “should be repealed.”
Ontario Liberal MPP Dr. Adil Shamji said the ads show the Ford government has failed to learn from the pandemic and is offering solutions that will have a devastating impact on patients and their families.
“Instead of investing in health workers and repealing Bill 124, Minister Jones chose to invest in independent for-profit health centers that will lead to worse health outcomes for patients and take our workers out of business. health of the public system where they are most needed. ,” he said.
“Instead of ignoring her responsibility to strengthen our publicly funded health care system by asking the for-profit sector to solve the problems the Ford administration created, Minister Jones must provide real solutions that address the root causes of extreme pressure facing our health care system.