Ontario’s official opposition is introducing its first motion of the session in Ontario’s legislature aimed at solving the province’s health care staff shortage, and is calling on all members of government to support it regardless of party lines.
NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns says the motion calls for health care recruitment and retention packages. It also includes an end to public workers’ wage cap policy Bill 124, more raises, better working conditions and partnerships with unions like the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
“This health care crisis is the worst we’ve seen in generations,” said Tabuns in a news conference Thursday.
“But there are solutions, and solutions that don’t include privatizing a system that has to remain public.”
On Wednesday, health minister Sylvia Jones said “all options are on the table” to deal with the province’s major staff shortage problem, and didn’t rule out privatization as a potential solution.
Cathryn Hoy, president of the ONA, said she’s opposed to a privatized system.
“Why are we not fixing the system we already have?”
For the past decade, Hoy says the union has been in talks with the province on how to improve the health care system. While she says the health care worker shortage didn’t happen overnight, it was worsened by the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of collective bargaining rights for nurses after the introduction of Bill 124 in 2019.
“We need a government that’s going to work with us, a government that wants to make change and invest monies where money should be invested,” said Hoy.
“It is a health crisis in Ontario, and we are putting patient care at risk because of the lack of nurses and health care professionals to properly provide this care.”
Both the NDP and ONA called the current state of health care in the province a crisis, contrary to what premier Doug Ford and health minister Sylvia Jones said earlier this week.
Hospitals have been closing throughout the summer as a result of the staffing shortages. Meanwhile, data from the College of Nurses show about 15,000 nurses licensed to work in Ontario aren’t currently practicing.
According to the NDP, Ontario has the lowest nurse-per-capita ratio in Canada at 665 registered nurses for every 100,000 people, and the lowest number of hospital beds per capita throughout all OECD countries.