Health care in danger of being “uberized,” says economist
Economist Armine Yalnizyan says the skyrocketing use of agency nursing is a “ticking time bomb” for our system of public health care.
“Patients need more care and consistent care. Workers providing that care need more respect. Getting there requires a long-term plan, one that is national in strategy and scope.”ARMINE YALNIZYAN
In a column published in the Toronto Star on June 15, Yalnizyan noted that temporary workers are increasingly being hired to fill in when there are staffing shortages in hospitals, long-term care facilities and community clinics, including remote health stations.
“Agency nursing has become a permanent short-term solution to address a crisis that has been decades in the making; the conditions of the pandemic have only accelerated its use,” she says, although there is next to no systemic data on the problem.
Yalnizyan spoke to the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), a Canadian Health Coalition member, whose president, Linda Silas, said rates go as high as $125 an hour for an agency nurse, which may include agency fees, and are paid for by the public purse.
“Nobody is thinking about sustainability,” Silas told Yalnizyan. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Yalnizyan called it the “uberization” of health care.
“The irony is that if any government spent just a fraction of what they’re spending on agencies – to improve wages and working conditions – they would solve the problem,” she said. “Patients need more care and consistent care. Workers providing that care need more respect. Getting there requires a long-term plan, one that is national in strategy and scope.”
“We did it before,” she said, “when we created national Medicare in 1966. Surely, with our economy 42 times bigger than it was 56 years age, we can come up with a plan that sustains Medicare now.”