KAWARTHA LAKES-The Ontario government has released its plan to keep the health system open in wake of nursing shortages, ED closures and a lack of trained Personal Support Workers.
Officials say it is a five-point plan which includes an increase in surgeries in existing private clinics covered by OHIP.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA)says it is deeply troubled by the spate of health-care announcements from the government today that outlines “major privatization plans”, including conducting thousands of surgeries in private hospitals.
“This is a blatant move that will line the pockets of investors, nothing more,” notes ONA President Cathryn Hoy, RN. “The evidence is clear: health-care privatization provides worse health outcomes to our patients, and has much higher overhead costs which will be paid by taxpayers. Ontario is deep-diving into privatization that will only benefit shareholders.”
The government also says it is introducing legislation that, if passed, will support patients whose doctors have said they no longer need hospital treatment and should instead be placed in a long-term care home, while they wait for their preferred home. According to the government, this will free up 2500 hospital beds.
Hoy notes, “Today’s government announcement is nothing more than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Placing patients into ‘vacant’ long-term care beds and ‘alternative health facilities’ is another disaster waiting to happen. As we have witnessed over the past two-plus years, our long-term care system is fraught with significant challenges, including nurse and health-care workers’ staffing.”
Adding more patients and residents to LTC will do nothing but create additional chaos according to Hoy.
“Sending frail patients to long-term care facilities that are not within their communities will cause more harm than good. These patients need the support and dedication from their families and caregivers. If patients are hundreds of kilometres away from their loved ones, they can succumb to significant emotional stress.”
The Minister of Health says the changes are necessary.
“When we released our first Plan to Stay Open in March 2022, we made a promise to build an Ontario that is ready for the challenges of tomorrow because we can no longer accept the status quo,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “The second phase of our plan will provide the support our health system needs to address the urgent pressures of today while preparing for a potential winter surge so our province and economy can stay open.”
Jones says when fully implemented, this next phase of the Plan to Stay Open will add up to 6,000 more health care workers according to the government. Over 10,900 health care professionals (including over 7,800 nurses and externs) have been added to the health system since Winter 2020 according to officials.
Although some are puzzled that there was no mention of an increase in pay for nurses
“Dozens of emergency departments were closed over the past few weeks due to a shortage of nurses. The government missed a huge opportunity here to bolster nurse compensation as a key to retention and recruitment to curb additional closures. Many physicians have voiced their support in increasing nurses’ compensation as a strategy. Again, the government ignored nurses,” said Hoy.
The next phase of Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open will temporarily cover the costs of examination, application and registration fees for internationally trained and retired nurses, so they can resume or begin caring for patients sooner.
Some other key highlights of the plan released by the government include:
Providing the Right Care in the Right Place
- Ontario is expanding the hugely successful 9-1-1 models of care to include additional ailments and is now giving paramedics the flexibility to provide better, more appropriate care. Patients diverted from emergency departments through these models received the care they needed up to 17 times faster with 94 per cent of patients avoiding the emergency department in the days following treatment.
- Ontario is implementing several initiatives to help avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, improve the process for ambulance offloading, and reintroduce respite services in long-term care.
- Ontario continues to fund community paramedicine to provide additional care for seniors in the comfort of their own homes before their admission to a long-term care home. The government says these initiatives will free up to 400 hospital beds.
Further Reducing Surgical Waitlists
- The government is investing over $300 million in 2022–23 as part of the province’s surgical recovery strategy, bringing the total investment to $880 million over the last three fiscal years.
- Ontario is working with hospital partners to identify innovative solutions to reduce wait times for surgeries and procedures, including considering options for further increasing surgical capacity by increasing the number of OHIP-covered surgical procedures performed at independent health facilities.
- Ontario is investing more to increase surgeries in paediatric hospitals and existing private clinics covered by OHIP, as well as to fund more than 150,000 additional operating hours for hospital-based MRI and CT machines.
Easing Pressure on our Emergency Departments
- Ontario is also launching a new provincial emergency department peer-to-peer program to provide additional on-demand, real-time support and coaching from experienced emergency physicians to aid in the management of patients presenting to rural emergency departments.
- Ontario is adding 400 physician residents to support the workforce in northern and rural Ontario.
- Ontario is working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to expedite the registration of doctors, including those from out-of-province and who may want to work in rural and northern emergency departments, so they can start working and caring for patients sooner.
Further Expanding Ontario’s Health Workforce
- Ontario is working with the College of Nurses of Ontario and Ontario Health to expand funding for the supervised practice experience partnership program which has already supported over 600 international nurses in getting licensed since January. The province anticipates that by the end of the fiscal year another 400 international nurses will gain the practice and language requirements necessary to work in Ontario.
- The Ontario government is also working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to reduce the financial barriers that may be stopping some retired or internationally trained nurses from receiving accreditation to resume or begin practicing by temporarily covering the cost of examination, application, and registration fees, saving them up to $1,500.
- The province is aware that agency rates have increased significantly, creating instability for hospitals, long-term care homes and emergency departments. In response, Ontario will engage with our frontline partners to better understand how we can bring stability to hospitals and emergency departments, while protecting quality of care.
As actions in this plan are implemented in the coming weeks and months, Ontarians can expect to see faster access to health care, including lower wait times in emergency departments, lower wait times for surgical procedures and more care options right in their communities. Ontario will also significantly reduce the risk of a hospital bed shortage during a possible winter surge so that the province and economy can stay open.
“Expanding specialized supports for people with complex needs and supporting the transition from hospitals into long-term care, when appropriate, are key pieces of our government’s Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery,” said Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care. “We are taking action to get Ontarians the right care in the right setting, where they can have the best possible quality of life, while freeing up much-needed hospital beds.”
“We are committed to working with our system partners to deliver on this plan and support front line health care workers,” said Matthew Anderson, President & CEO of Ontario Health. “This plan provides both immediate and long-term strategies that will allow us to respond to current challenges and better integrate the system for the future.”