Throne Speech: Front-Line Nurses Say Health-Care Changes Must Benefit Patient

TORONTO, March 8 /CNW/ - Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN says that any government changes to health-care or hospital funding must ensure quality patient care first.

Commenting on today's Speech from the Throne, Haslam-Stroud said, "The devil is in the details when it comes to the government's plans to pursue 'a path of constant reform.' RNs understand that some reform has been necessary, but have suffered through constant restructuring for more than a decade. This has led to a high level of instability and has done little to ensure confidence in the health-care system. We believe that any further reform must be for the benefit of our patients and not solely based on balancing the bottom line."

ONA believes that a review of and any changes to the Public Hospitals Act must support quality patient care and be made with meaningful input from registered nurses. ONA believes that front-line nurses and communities must have a say in how their hospitals operate.

Haslam-Stroud notes that Ontario spent 13.9 per cent less on hospital funding per capita than other provinces in 2009 - though it spent 10.7 per cent more on drugs and 24.7 per cent more on physicians. This has occurred as the government and Local Health Integration Networks remained silent as more than 3.2 million hours of RN care was cut out of the system in the past eight months alone.

"The gutting of RN positions has been of major concern to ONA and to patients and their families," says Haslam-Stroud. "ONA doesn't believe that cutting nurses out of hospitals will improve care - we know just the opposite. The government needs to do its utmost to retain every RN position in the system."

The speech also touched on improving diabetes care - but ONA has seen diabetes clinics and programs cut in parts of Ontario as hospitals look for ways to balance budgets.

"Nurses will be keeping a close watch as government announces its next steps and releases the provincial budget," says Haslam-Stroud. "Any changes to health-care funding cannot create barriers to patient care in our communities. Ontarians deserve an accessible and high-quality health-care system."

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; Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369

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