VANCOUVER, Jan. 23, 2014 /CNW/ - During the opening of the Canadian Nursing Students' Association AGM, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU)'s President, Linda Silas, called for governments to shelve workforce redesigns that are reducing nursing hours and to secure the employment of all new nurses to ensure the long-term sustainability of our health care system. "Evidence-based long-term human resource planning must guide governments," says Silas. Added Silas, "Unfortunately, governments are making drastic changes to health care delivery without evidence to support those changes. We hear many anecdotal stories that graduating nurses are not getting jobs yet the average age of nurses is creeping up. It's time for governments to plan for the future, not repeat the mistakes of the past. In the 1990s, lack of health care planning led to a net loss of nurses to other countries or professions."
In most areas of the country there are no published nursing workforce projections. We know the number of nurses approaching retirement is increasing: 11.3 per cent of nurses are over the age of 60. This group is growing faster than the proportion of nurses under 30. More than 10,000 new nurses graduated in each of the past three years but many were unable to find employment. In 2011-2012, only 1,083 RNs were added to the workforce.
In 2003, Dr. Linda O'Brien-Pallas raised the alarm projecting that with nearly one third of RNs over the age of 50, many would retire over the next 10-15 years. Following her report, many provinces developed targeted initiatives aimed at new nursing graduates but most have now been reduced or eliminated.
Today, more than a decade after Dr. O'Brien-Pallas' report, Canada has a significant bulge of nurses on the cusp of retirement. Despite this imminent shortage, knee-jerk reactions focused on cost-cutting, rather than evidence-based planning, are driving provincial governments to cut the budgets of health care employers in order to "redesign the workforce", a euphemism for cutting nursing positions.
"This is not how to manage a 200 billion dollar social program that Canadians count on everyday," says Silas. "This is not how we should plan to provide nursing care for patients over the next 5 - 10 years. We need better data and better forecasting." Canada's nurses unions call on the federal government to adequately fund the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) so that it can make health human resources projections for the future of our health care needs within all sectors: acute care, community, home care and long term care.
Until clear, evidence-based projections are developed, Canada's nurses unions are calling on all governments to provide new graduate initiatives to secure the retention of Canada's 2013 grads with the same strategy for the 2014 classes. Recent public inquiries into increased mortality rates in the UK's National Health Service point to the perils of workforce redesign that does not put patients first - Canada is risking the same perils if we do not act.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) represents close to 200,000 nurses and student nurses. Our members work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, community health care, and our homes. The CFNU speaks to all levels of government, other health care stakeholders and the public about evidence-based policy options to improve patient care, working conditions and our public health care system.
SOURCE: Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, 613-526-4661
Linda Silas, President, 613-859-4314 (cell)