Ontario rolls out programs to boost health staffing



Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones says the province is now starting three programs aimed at bolstering staffing in the health-care sector.

These were previously announced but launching now are:

  • A $40-million fund to encourage health-care providers to better connect patients to services.
  • A program to allow internationally trained physicians to work more quickly.
  • A nursing mentor program.

Hospitals across the province are grappling with a shortage of nurses that has led to dozens of temporary emergency room closures — the arbitrator who set hospital nurses’ new contract says there are 9,000 registered nurse vacancies.

The Models of Care Innovation Fund will give funding to hospitals, family health teams and other health organizations for
projects to allow faster access to care and boost health-care worker capacity, such as a staffing pool between hospitals and virtual peer support for ER doctors in rural areas.

A Clinical Scholar Program will pair an experienced front-line nurse as a mentor with newly graduated or internationally trained nurses, which Jones said will both help those nurses and help retain experienced nurses.

Many health workers can’t easily navigate entry back to practice

Kate Robertson-Cain, vice-president of clinical services and chief nursing executive at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, said she knows first hand the impact the past few years have had on health-care teams.

On top of that, she said, the pandemic highlighted just how many out-of-province or internationally trained health-care workers are ready and able to work, but have been unable to “easily navigate entry into practice in our health-care system.”

The programs promoted by Jones on Monday “don’t just benefit learners. — they benefit our teams as well,” Robertson-Cain said.

“Through these partnerships, our teams meet new people and learn new skills along the way. Not only is this a win for our teams, but the result is a better care experience for our patients.,” she said.

As well, the province said, a “practice-ready” program for internationally trained physicians removes barriers for them and will see 50 new doctors working in Ontario by 2024.

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