TORONTO — This morning, Ontario Green Leader Mike Schreiner called on Doug Ford to take urgent action to address the nursing shortage crisis facing the province as Ontario battles the fourth wave.
“We cannot stand by and watch nurses suffer. They need help and Ontario needs to step up and do the right thing,” Schreiner said.
Schreiner was joined by SEIU Nursing Division President and trained RPN Jackie Walker. Walker highlighted the struggles that nurses are facing. “19 months into the pandemic I still hear stories from nurses that keep me up at night. I hear from career nurses. The morale has never been this low, not even during the Mike Harris days.”
“The nursing shortage crisis is driven by harsh working conditions and low pay,” Schreiner stated. “Nurses have been the backbone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response. Many are burnt out, stressed and overworked from the past 18 months. As we continue to navigate the current public health crisis, we need to ensure there is enough staff to care for patients without risk of burnout.
“Doug Ford needs to do everything in his power to improve the working conditions of nurses and address this staffing shortage immediately.”
According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Ontario hospitals currently face an 18 to 20 per cent vacancy rate for nursing positions. And the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union estimates there are more than 16,000 nursing vacancies in the province.
“Enough with the lip service. It all comes down to treating nurses with the respect they deserve”, Schreiner said.
“What does it say about us as a province if we can’t even protect those that protect us?
Schreiner specifically called on Doug Ford to:
- Repeal Bill 124 to give all nurses the raise they deserve
- Implement a program to pay all nurses an additional $5 an hour if they are working on a short-staffed unit or department (10 or fewer scheduled nurses)
- Provide N95 respirators for all nurses to protect them from airborne transmission of COVID-19
- Make pandemic pay permanent for all nurses
- Provide guaranteed access to mental health services for all nurses
- Bolster admissions to nursing baccalaureate programs by 10 per cent in each of the next four years and increase the supply of Nurse Practitioners by over 50 per cent by 2030, as per RNAO’s recommendations
- Streamline and expedite the lengthy process of granting nursing license to qualified internationally educated nurses through the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO)
“These actions are about bringing financial and emotional relief to nurses that are on the brink, “ Walker said. “Nurses that are on the brink of burnout and on the brink of walking away”
“It’s about retention as well as recruitment,” concluded Schreiner. “By investing in better working conditions for nurses it will help address the current public health crisis as well as prepare Ontario’s healthcare system for the future.”
Schreiner also sent an open letter to Premier Ford this morning calling on his government to take immediate action to address Ontario’s nursing shortage. Please find the full letter as a PDF here.