Ontario Nurses' Association calls on government to end RN cuts and hospital underfunding: RN care needed for safe, high-quality patient care

OAKVILLE, ON, Jan. 14, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) today called on the provincial government to end the underfunding of Ontario hospitals and cuts to RN positions. In keeping with the government's signal that it wants to focus on job creation, ONA is also calling for funding of a multi-year action plan to hire and maintain registered nursing positions.

In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs, Jo Anne Shannon, RN, a Professional Practice Specialist with ONA, provided examples from the St. Catharines site of the Niagara Health System of how RN cuts have hurt patients. She cited research that shows the direct link between registered nurse staffing levels and improved health outcomes for patients.

"It's a shocking little secret that Ontario has the second-lowest RN-to-population ratio, with just seven RNs per 1,000 Ontarians," notes ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "Polls have shown how important health care is to Ontarians, and it's vital that we begin reducing the RN gap of more than 17,500 that currently exists between Ontario and the rest of Canada."

As funding of hospitals has failed to keep up with the rate of inflation during the past four years, RN staffing levels in many of our hospitals have put patients at risk. Increasingly, Ontario hospitals are looking to balance budgets by replacing RNs with less-skilled workers, leaving workloads unmanageable for nurses and dangerous for patients.

Haslam-Stroud says that there is a dire need for more RNs to meet the increased care needs of the complex, unstable patients in our hospitals. "Patients with alternate level of care needs are increasingly being moved to the community sector," she notes. "RN staffing levels in hospitals have not kept pace with the increasingly complex care needed by hospital patients, and are not keeping patients or nurses safe."

The literature shows that for every extra patient added to an average RN's workload, patient complications and death rates increase by seven per cent. Ontario has lost millions of hours of RN care in the past two years due to RN cuts.

There have been investigations into the impact of RN staffing levels in the old St. Catharines site Emergency Room. The new St. Catharines Hospital site is now much larger but understaffed, and RNs have once again continually and consistently documented serious professional practice and workload concerns since the move to the new hospital site.  In the ER, RNs are unable to triage ER patients within guidelines and standards set. The hospital has also cut RN staffing hours to many of the other units in the new hospital site and RNs are working within nurse-patient ratios and working conditions that are unsafe, unmanageable and dangerous for patients.

"It's time for the Ontario government to step up for patients," says Haslam-Stroud. "It is essential to properly staff our hospitals to meet patient care needs. Ontarians deserve no less care than patients in the rest of the country."

ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

Visit us at: www.ona.org; Facebook.com/OntarioNurses; Twitter.com/OntarioNurses

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416) 964-1979 ext.2430; cell: (416) 986-8240; shereeb@ona.org; Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-1979 ext. 2369; melaniel@ona.org