QUEEN’S PARK – The Official Opposition NDP is taking a hiring and retention plan to the legislature that will give current and future health care workers in Ontario raises, respect, and incentives equal to or better than what other provinces are offering.
“Our health care system is already on its knees, and our remaining health care workers are run off their feet, they’re feeling disrespected, and more are leaving every week,” said NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns.
Tabuns, NDP Health Care critic France Gélinas and Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) President Cathryn Hoy, RN, spoke out together on Thursday about the need for this motion to pass.
“This nursing shortage in Ontario is at the worst it has been in decades. For anyone in government to deny we are in a crisis is an insult to the front-line nurses and health-care professionals who are sounding the alarm,” said Cathryn Hoy, RN and President of the Ontario Nurses Association. “It’s time for this government to listen to nurses and move urgently to restore our health workforce. There is no excuse for not taking every action possible to recruit and retain nurses and end this crisis so every person in Ontario can access our public health care system when they need it.”
Ontario has the lowest nurse-per-capita ratio in Canada at 665 registered nurses for every 100,000 people. Ontario also has the lowest number of hospital beds per capita throughout all OECD countries.
“I can’t imagine anything scarier than rushing to an emergency room to find the doors locked. Patients are literally laying on the floor in crowded emergency rooms, because there is nowhere else to wait,” said NDP Health Care critic France Gélinas. “We have to turn this around with raises, respect, and incentives for current and future health care workers. Instead of waving goodbye to these workers as they leave for other provinces, or for the private sector, let’s support for them by showing them respect and appreciation.”
Nurses and health care staff are consistently reporting burn out – on average, weekly overtime for Ontario nurses increased by 137 per cent between May 2019 and May 2020. Health care workers report Premier Doug Ford’s wage cap law, Bill 124, is a significant factor in the exodus of health care staff from the profession.
According to Statistics Canada, there are 5,400 fewer health care and social services workers in Ontario compared to just one year ago, and ONA reports that Ontario needs about 30,000 more nurses.
Emergency department and urgent care centre closures or reduced hours have happened in more than two dozen communities, including Red Lake, Perth, Clinton, Listowel, Seaforth, Wingham, Brampton, Ottawa and Kingston. Others hospitals from Toronto to Hearst are at risk.
The NDP will attempt to have the motion passed in the legislature immediately as an emergency motion, which requires unanimous consent. Failing that, the NDP will force a final vote on the motion on the first Opposition Day.
The NDP will move the following motion:
Whereas health care job vacancies have more than quadrupled since 2015 and are now over 45,000, with a record 8.84% of hospital jobs vacant as of March 2022, while the College of Nurses of Ontario reports over 15,000 nurses in Ontario are licensed and not practicing; and
Whereas health care workers are overworked, underpaid, subject to violence, and distressed by their inability to provide the care patients need due to poor working conditions and inadequate staffing; and
Whereas Financial Accountability Office research has revealed the urgent need to train and hire tens of thousands of extra nurses and PSWs to meet the government’s own 2024-25 LTC targets for hands-on-care; and
Whereas the province's inadequate $5,000 retention bonus for nurses introduced a temporary change that ends in September that fails to solve a long-term problem, and leaves out hundreds of thousands of other frontline health care workers; and
Whereas the government acted unilaterally and often failed to consult health care workers on staffing issues, and nurses and health care workers have been prevented by this government from exercising their right to free collective bargaining and have seen their modest wages fall far below inflation; and
Whereas, in the face of this indifference, evidence shows health care workers are quitting, going to other provinces to practice, or going to work for private health care agencies that, with this government’s silent approval, bill hospitals at a much higher rate; and
Whereas this government has failed to develop a comprehensive health care staffing plan to train, recruit and retain sufficient numbers of health care workers; and
Whereas, due to inflation, government revenue was over $20 billion higher than this government budgeted in 2021-22, yet the government failed to spend $1.22 billion of its hospitals budget in 2021-22, and
Whereas, repealing the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (previously Bill 124) and allowing health care workers to freely bargain fair wage would help solve the government’s health care staffing crisis; and
Whereas, Quebec is offering recruitment and retention payments of up to $18,000 to health care workers, $20,000 education bursaries, better working conditions, and will spend an additional $3.8 billion on health recruitment and retention efforts;
Therefore the Legislative Assembly calls on the Ford government to work with unions to create a multi-layer Health Care Worker Recruitment and Retention incentive package that improves working conditions in health sector and includes incentives to recruit, retain, and return full-time, public, unionized workers; offers permanent wage raises for health care workers; immediately repeals Bill 124 and restores workers' right to bargain for wages that reflect the significant impact of rising inflation; and ensure that the Ontario Health Care Worker Recruitment and Retention plan offers incentives equal to or greater than what other provinces in Canada are offering.