Horwath calls for health care hiring and retention strategy to shorten health care wait times

In Sault Ste. Marie Thursday, October 14th, 2021, Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for an urgent health care recruitment and retention action plan to relieve and respect exhausted health care workers, and turn around growing wait times for patients.

Ontario’s Science Table reports that 43 per cent of members of Registered Nurses Association of Ontario are considering leaving nursing after the pandemic.

“Burnout is causing health care workers like nurses and personal support workers to leave their job, which leaves each shift understaffed, causing more burnout and more staff leaving. Doug Ford’s wage restraint bill has only added to frontline workers feeling abandoned and disrespected. The situation is spiralling out of control,” said Horwath.

“And that leaves patients waiting in pain and anxiety for longer. We need more frontline health care workers, because you shouldn’t have to be in agony before you finally get the care you need.”

In the Sault, ER waits are hours long, and the wait just for a first appointment with a specialist when a patient needs a knee replacement surgery is already over three months. The backlog of surgeries that didn’t happen during the pandemic are adding additional frightening waits for surgeries everywhere.

The former Liberal government cut 1,600 nurses during years of hospital budget freezes — positions Ford has not restored, even as a pandemic gripped the health care system.

That’s in contrast to how Quebec is handling its staffing crisis. That province is spending $1 billion to retain nurses and hire new administrative workers to support them so they can focus on patients. In the summer of 2020 Quebec also hired 10,000 personal support workers.

“If I were premier today, I’d launch an aggressive recruitment and retention strategy for health care,” said Horwath. “We need a retention plan for nurses with valuable skills, training and experience, like emergency department and surgical team experience. We need to get rid of Ford’s wage cap bill, Bill 124.

“We need a plan that trains new health care workers and gives them full time jobs and fair wages. And we need a plan that funds hospitals, long-term care homes and other health care settings to have enough staff on each shift to ensure that people get the best care, and staff are protected from burnout. I’d also make sure the North gets its fair share.”

Andrea Horwath