This week’s round-up of who is saying what about public health care features news about the nurses working overtime and the nursing shortage, the reversal of privatization in health care in British Columbia as well as calls by experts for Canada to act on long-term care standards.
Nova Scotia: Save nurses, fix overtime overload
“I love my co-workers and I also care about my community. So when I can’t be here, it makes me feel like I’m letting the system down and I’m letting my colleagues down,” Anne Boutillier, an emergency room nurse in Dartmouth, N.S., told CBC News, August 10, 2022, in a story about Nova Scotia nurses working disproportionately more overtime during the pandemic.
“It’s a vicious circle, but we have to stop it… We’ve been talking about the working condition, the poor working conditions of nurses for 10, 15 years,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) in the same CBC story.
New Brunswick doctor recommends investing in health care workers to solve health care crisis
“It’s scary to go to work and see people having panic attacks at work and actively looking for other jobs on their breaks,” Dr. Yogi Sehgal told CBC, August 11, 2022.
Dr. Seghal’s list of recommendations to the New Brunswick government includes better staffing of emergency room departments, better compensation and more protection for nurses, and boosting incentives to recruit physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to improve access to primary care.
Newfoundland Labrador: Government announces pilot project to entice retired doctors
“This new program is part of an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to help stabilize medical services in the province. We need multiple tools in our recruitment toolbox, and this is one additional measure to help add capacity to the health care system. The NLMA [Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association] looks forward to ongoing discussions with the provincial government to develop additional measures to address shortages in family medicine,” said Dr. Kris Luscombe, President of the NLMA, in a Government of Newfoundland-Labrador news release, August 10, 2022 about the association and province’s one-year pilot program to help entice retired family physicians to come back to the workforce.
Meanwhile, the province is calling in agency nurses
“This is public money for a publicly funded health-care system being spent on private industry,” Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union of Newfoundland and Labrador told CBC News Investigates, July 28, 2022 in a story about the nursing shortage and the problem of agencies recruiting nurses.
“And it’s a short-term fix. It’s a slippery slope because our members want flexibility. Our members want time off. And they see this. And we have people leaving our system now to join agencies in other provinces,” said Coffey.
And in Ontario . . .
“Agency nursing is a form of privatization,” said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, adding that it is the agencies that are making mega money from such recruitment in the Toronto Star, August 16, 2022.
The Star reports that the University Health Network, Canada’s largest research and teaching hospital network, had spent $6.7 million on agency nurses at the end of March 2022, a significant jump compared to 2018, when it spent $1 million.
“It’s gut-wrenching … we will not be able to sustain our health-care system with numbers like that,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).
Privatization being reversed in BC health services
Adrian Dix, BC Health Minister, on bringing hospital workers back in the public health care system, in government media release on July 22, 2022: “This legislation ensures better working conditions, job security and equitable wages for workers whose contributions to our health-care system are undeniable. I sincerely thank VCH [Vancouver Coastal Health] for their tremendous efforts in transitioning these food-service workers back in-house and for their commitment to improving quality of care for patients.”
Meena Brisard, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union, said: “The return of food-service workers to the public system is a recognition that these workers are critical to patient care and safety. By bringing these workers back in-house, the provincial government is reversing nearly two decades of privatization that fragmented our public health-care system, while devastating the lives of thousands health-care workers, most of whom are women or racialized workers.”
Watch “We Made it Public” by the Hospital Employees’ Union.
Long-term care standards – still waiting
“We’re back to where we were before again. I feel like nothing’s happened. So if we could get some decent standards in long-term care, it’s absolutely vital,” Jane Sustrik, former United Nurses of Alberta First Vice-President, told The Canadian Press, August 4, 2022. The Liberals promised to legislate safety in long-term care during the last election.
Premiers to federal government: Give us the money, don’t ask questions
Premiers recently called for another $28 billion for health care from the federal government on top of the $45 billion they already get every year.
Armine Yalnizian, Pat Armstrong (Canadian Health Coalition board member), Marjorie Griffin Cohen and Laurel Ritchie, members of the Care Economy Group, responded to the premiers’ demands in the Toronto Star, August 13, 2022:
“What’s wrong with this picture? Accountability.
With our most critical social program in chaos in every part of the country, it’s not enough for provinces to say ‘just give us the money.’ What’s the plan to use more public money to buy lasting change? We’ve learned over the past year that you can’t buy change unless there’s an explicit agreement about the transformations you’re buying.”
The authors say there are five areas that need a blueprint for change: a health care labour force strategy; care in hospital; care outside of hospital; public reporting and improved data; improving health.
On federal health transfers, New Brunswick Heath Care Coalition’s Bernadette Landry told CTV on July 24, 2022: “I think it’s very important that there be strings attached and that we know exactly where that money is going… The Higgs government used a lot of that money to balance the budget. That’s not what the money was for.”