Over the past few years, nurses across Canada have had to look on in disbelief as governments, through their policies and practices, have systematically undermined the health-care workforce.
And they are right to be frustrated.
In Ontario, this sad narrative continues. The province’s government is once again trying to take a back seat, following up on a previously bad decision to reduce the province’s nurse-to-patient ratio from 1:2 to 1:6.
But this time, to placate nurses, the Ontario government made a major policy reversal, legislating that governments will consider raising the ratio back to 1:4.
Ontario’s nurses deserve a better opportunity to advance their interests
Ontario’s nurses, however, believe the province’s government hasn’t gone far enough in breaking the cycle of crippling wage freezes, by adopting progressive strategies that will bring worker wages more in line with the market forces driving private-sector salary levels.
We at the Ontario Association of Physician Assistants are one of the groups driving this effort. Our members practice emergency and critical care nursing, registered nursing, home health aide care, and medical laboratory services. All of these fields face significant wage stagnation, which threatens their ability to keep pace with the changes in their employer-employee relationship.
Related Image Expand / Contract Susan Gorman, Ontario Association of Physician Assistants, board member. (Ontario Association of Physician Assistants)
Ontario’s government must work with us, join the fight for a better Ontario
Physician assistants have a talent for hospital administration that could help our government address both its pay and benefits issues. A half-day seminar, teaching nurses how physician assistants can help them achieve the same or higher patient-care results than nurses can, is being offered on Monday, September 24, and this fall, we will hold several more class sessions.
Nurses, it is important to note, work overtime almost every hour of the day. Excessive overtime hours impact both the patient and their quality of life.
Nurses are required to work up to 14 hours per day, seven days per week. These patient-care-hours put a burden on nurses’ productivity, and sacrifice time spent with patients to manage workplace problems and technology support.
The Ontario Nurses Association did a survey in 2016 of 7,000 nurses that found that half work more than 10 hours per day. An additional two-thirds indicated that they work more than six hours per day. In 2017, Ontario’s New Democrats proposed a 25-hour workweek, to help nurse salaries increase at a faster rate than inflation. This proposal could have a meaningful impact on nurses’ ability to pay for basic living expenses.
Physician assistants have a talent for hospital administration that could help our government address both its pay and benefits issues
Related Image Expand / Contract Brian Walker, associate vice president of administration, University Health Network. (University Health Network)
Despite many efforts in the last few years, Ontario continues to have one of the lowest rates of nurse-to-patient ratios.
Kris Burge, a certified practical nurse from Brampton, told the Huffington Post that in her 13 years of service, the number of nurses in her hospital has actually decreased: “I haven’t felt secure that there will be enough nurses around when I need them. I sometimes feel like I’m on my own out there when there are lots of patients.”
It’s clear Ontario’s government would be well-served to sit down with the organizations we represent and be part of the solution. Ontario’s nurse-careers deserve a better opportunity to advance their interests.
Anna Borsuk is executive director and CEO of the Ontario Association of Physician Assistants.