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The nursing shortage:
The “five-per-cent solution” is not good enough!

February 16, 2010

By Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN

The news media are increasingly filled with stories of nursing cuts at healthcare facilities in every corner of Ontario. They as often as not include quotes from management about how “patient care will not be affected” or comments from politicians talking about how much the Liberal government has done to hire thousands of new nurses.

ONA has been tracking nursing cuts and we know, as of mid-February, of more than 1,600 RN positions that have been deleted from our Bargaining Units. The reason is clear: while the provincial government continues to say they respect RNs and are working to support the profession, they — along with our employers and the LHINs — are staying silent as hospitals cut RN positions to save money.

The Premier has hinted that the healthcare funding increase in this year’s budget may be one or two percent, and we know a number of hospitals are providing lay-off notices to our members. Hospitals are also leaving vacant RN positions empty, or hiring “less-expensive workers” in order to balance their budgets.

The system is losing its way—the focus should be on patient care, not balancing budgets at the expense of our patients. An attempt by the Ontario Hospital Association and the heads of the LHINs to change the skill mix in many units to save money has been quashed by the government in a written directive, but this hasn’t stopped employers from balancing their budgets on the backs of nurses and the patients we care for.

ONA is active on your behalf in a number of ways. We continue to make consistent outreach efforts to media outlets to ensure they know of the plight of Ontario RNs and our allied members, and the threats to patient care. We continue to meet with the Nursing Secretariat and government to stop these cuts.

Ironically, the initiatives so proudly touted by the government to recruit nurses are the Nursing Graduate Guarantee and an expansion of Nurse Practitioner clinics. While we fully support these initiatives, they affect just five per cent of nurses practicing in Ontario.

What about retention? What about the other 95 per cent of our members working on the front lines under more and more difficult conditions?

We’ll continue to do our utmost to shine the light on the lack of support for the majority of RNs in Ontario. We need everyone’s support—the support of our members, the public and the media.

In the short term, remember to keep talking to your friends, neighbours and colleagues about nursing cuts. Tell them about our CuttingNursesCuttingCare.ca website and encourage them to write letters to the editor and send an e-mail to their local Members of Provincial Parliament.

I also encourage you to call your MPP now! The only way to put an end to the practice of cutting nurses is to keep up the pressure. The provincial government’s budget will be released in March and every bit of pressure that we can apply now will increase our chances of convincing the government to stop the cuts before our patients suffer further.

Let me know what you think. Please email me: president@ona.org.

 

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