Despite promising elements, 2014 Ontario Budget fails to address barriers preventing nurses from providing optimal care

MISSISSAUGA, ON, May 1, 2014 /CNW/ - While the 2014 Ontario Budget proposes several important health care commitments, funding constraints across the hospital, community and long-term care sectors threaten to have negative implications for these vital health care professionals and the millions of Ontarians for whom they provide care.

The Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (RPNAO) applauds the provincial government's continued investment in community-focused health care systems but is concerned it is not enough. "We know patients want to be cared for in their homes and communities whenever possible," says Dianne Martin, Executive Director of RPNAO. "Research also tells us that quality care delivered in the community care and home care sector is more cost-effective than care delivered in a hospital environment."

While this shift toward community-based health care is encouraging, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of funding for the nurses tasked with caring for Ontario's growing and aging population. Ontario's hospitals are facing unprecedented budgetary constraints and are being asked to fund increased compensation costs through 'productivity gains' and other 'tradeoffs'. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by the latest statistics from the College of Nurses of Ontario, one of these tradeoffs has been a significant drop in the percentage of nurses in full-time roles as hospitals and other employers struggle to control rising health care costs. The full-time employment rate for RPNs dropped 4.1% this past year to 56.8%, far below the provincial goal of 70% full-time employment.

"This trend is having dire consequences for our nurses, as it diminishes the continuity of care and fragments care, which threatens patient outcomes, making it increasingly difficult for nurses to maintain the service levels required to meet their patients' health care needs," says Martin. "It's also important to remember that the life of a part-time nurse is extremely difficult, filled with incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty. We need to do better by our nurses and the people they care for."

RPNAO supports a number of the proposals put forth by the provincial government in the latest budget, including expanding the scopes of nurses and other health care professionals, the investment of $11.4 billion in capital grants for hospital expansion and redevelopment projects, increased pay for PSWs in the home and community sector, the commitment to modernizing long-term care facilities and making additional investments in the province's mental health and addictions strategy.

However, more work needs to be done in order to truly create a more sustainable and high-quality health care system in the province.

"Ontario's nurses take pride in the important work they do. They want to be able to continue providing high-quality care," says Martin. "However, despite these important commitments, unless the government takes decisive action to better support the province's nurses, we are going to continue to see nurses struggling with crushing workloads, resulting in a higher incidence of sick days, more overtime and, ultimately, more nurses choosing to leave the profession altogether."

About the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (RPNAO)

Founded in 1958, RPNAO is the voice of registered practical nursing in Ontario. There are approximately 35,000 RPNs working in Ontario, playing a vital role in the province's health care system. For more information about RPNAO, its mandate and how RPNs contribute to Ontario's health care system, please visit rpnao.org.

SOURCE: Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

For further information:

Dianne Martin, Executive Director
905-602-4664 ext. 226

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Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

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Ontario Budget 2014

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