Ontario Nurses Say Budget is the Final Nail in the Coffin

TORONTO, March 25 /CNW/ - Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN says that today's provincial budget means more service and nursing cuts for patients in this province.

"Every Ontarian should brace themselves for yet more cuts to the health care they need and count on," said Haslam-Stroud, following the release of the provincial budget. Base funding for hospitals will increase by just 1.5 per cent for 2010/11.

Haslam-Stroud notes that care has already been cut in communities throughout Ontario in recent months, and the 1.5 per cent increase means that we will see more of the same. "ONA has been tracking the deletion of registered nursing positions for about eight months now, and we've seen more than 1,800 RN positions cut, totaling more than 3.5 million hours of patient care per year that are gone forever," she said.

"There have been cuts to RN positions and hours of care in both large and small communities, including Sarnia, Leamington, Chatham, Windsor, Grey-Bruce, London, Listowel, St. Thomas, Tillsonburg, Woodstock, Cambridge, Guelph, Brantford, Niagara, Norfolk, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, Scarborough, Newmarket, Oshawa, Cobourg, Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Orangeville, Brockville, Bowmanville, Kingston, Belleville, Cornwall, Pembroke, Muskoka, Orillia, Barrie, Alliston, Georgian Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Nipissing, Thunder Bay, Kenora, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Belleville," she noted.

She also noted that the government's intent to provide care to patients in the community has not been possible yet as the structural and human resource enhancements required to provide high-quality care have not occurred.

"The cuts have a significant effect on the care we provide," says Haslam-Stroud. "As more RN positions are cut, we'll see rates of morbidity and mortality rise as patients lose the expertise and skills that RNs bring - studies have shown a seven per cent rise in patient complications and death when even one more patient is added to an average RN's workload."

The province's hospitals are already the most efficient in the country, said the ONA President. "We also have the second-lowest ratio of RNs per capita in Canada, and though funding has increased, the dollars don't seem to be filtering down to retain front-line RNs who provide direct patient care. We know that we are spending more money on drugs and for physicians, but doing little to retain experienced registered nurses. RNs are looking for some stability in the system - whether they work in hospitals, long-term care or the community - in order to retain the experienced nurses and recruit new nursing graduates.

"The government continues to say that nurses are the backbone of the health-care system, but the cuts are breaking our nurses' backs," says Haslam-Stroud. "A funding increase that won't even maintain current levels of patient care in hospitals, and the threat of wage freezes for RNs who are struggling each and every day to provide nursing care, is the final nail in the coffin."

Haslam-Stroud and ONA Vice-President Andy Summers, RN are available to comment further.

ONA is the union representing 55,000 front-line registered nurses and allied health professionals and more than 12,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community and industry.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240

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