Ontario’s shortage of nurses is not going away

The Ontario government is trying to shift the spotlight away from many of the scandals that brought it to power to focus on the health care workforce. But that’s not the whole story. The…

Ontario's shortage of nurses is not going away

The Ontario government is trying to shift the spotlight away from many of the scandals that brought it to power to focus on the health care workforce. But that’s not the whole story.

The province, long touted as one of the safest for nurses, is in dire need of nurses. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott points to figures that estimate demand for physicians in Ontario will grow from about 85,000 in 2017 to nearly 105,000 by 2030.

“We know how important nurses are in our health care system. We just don’t know how many nurses we actually have,” she said in a radio interview with CP24’s Mary Harris.

In 2017, Ontario Health Sciences Partnership (OHSP) announced that their vacancy rate for registered nurses was 6.1%. By comparison, Alberta’s vacancy rate was 2.9%. Quebec’s was 6.8% and New Brunswick’s was 3.2%. Ontario’s vacancy rate was 1.9%. It could be worse, the CAW-Unifor –OPP report on nursing revealed. Only about 50% of hospitals in Ontario reported vacancy rates for registered nurses below the national average.

So where are all the nurses going? In addition to demographic trends, the provinces aging population has largely driven the shortage of nurses and health-care leaders are also discouraged to relocate to Ontario in part because they can’t afford to buy a home here.

Will Ontario pay attention to this? It seems rather unlikely. In a recent interview with Ontario’s Health Minister, she explained her plan for nurses would be to “find more staff that are current nurses” who are nearing retirement.

Nurses have proven themselves throughout the history of the province. Making sure they have the respect they deserve won’t be any easier to accomplish.

– Jordan Epstein, Health Watch UK

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