Pressure mounts to address health care working conditions
Health care unions are urging the Ontario government to acknowledge the real reasons why there is a growing and critical shortage of nurses, personal support workers and other hospital staff province-wide.
Even before the pandemic began, Ontario had the fewest staff-to-hospital patient ratio of any jurisdiction in the OECD for many years, reports CUPE National, a member of the Canadian Health Coalition.
Workloads that result from this chronic understaffing, together with unsafe working conditions, a lack of full-time employment, and over 10 years of their wages falling behind inflation, create a challenging working environment for a mostly female workforce where it is increasingly harder to recruit and retain employees.
It’s these factors that “threaten the viability of our hospitals much more than the job losses reported resulting from vaccine mandates,” wrote Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario, in a letter to Premier Doug Ford.
“Ontario does not have to wait for the implications of a vaccine mandate to experience a health human resource crisis. The crisis exists now. More healthcare workers are leaving the system because of poor wages and working conditions than because of vaccine mandates,” wrote Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare.
In recent polling done by CUPE, 87 per cent of more than 2600 hospital registered practical nurses (RPNs) indicated they have considered leaving their nursing job after the pandemic because of the thankless and grueling working conditions.
Polling by SEIU Healthcare found that 54 per cent of their members in long-term care, hospitals and community settings are considering leaving the health care system in pursuit of a job in another sector. The primary reasons, according to 70 per cent those who responded, are poor wages and unsafe working conditions.