‘Getting dangerous’: Calls grow for federal action amid Canada’s nurse shortage

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Nancy Halupa, a Toronto emergency room nurse, says two decades into a career she is almost ready to make a comeback.

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“I don’t think I can do a fourth wave with this kind of staffing,” she told Granthshala News.

“It’s not good for my mental health. It’s not good for my family. It’s just not a workable condition anymore.”


Across the country, hospital workers are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate. And it is prompting experts and health care workers to call for more action from the federal government.

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about one in five job vacancies in canada According to Statistics Canada, in health care and social support. In early 2021, those sectors experienced the biggest year-over-year losses compared to all other sectors.

The Canadian Federation of Nurse Unions (CFNU) said that weekly overtime also increased by an average of 78 percent from May 2019 to May 2020, Using data from statcan.

According to CFNUIn , Quebec and Ontario that number rises to 137 percent.

In Ontario, Canada’s largest province alone, the CFNU president told Granthshala News it estimates there are more than 16,000 vacancies.

For them, like Halupa, who has not quit, he said, the workload is crushing.

“Things need to change. It is getting dangerous out there,” Halupa said.

“I’ve never been to work with so much anxiety or fear about what we’re going to see or what we’re going to deal with or how little we’re going to have.”

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Halupa said that all the blame cannot be placed on COVID-19. He said that recruitment, retirement and salary have also played a role in getting people out of the profession.

At a recent rally in Toronto, Medical professionals condemn Doug Ford Gov. for Bill 124.

The law was introduced pre-pandemic in 2019 and put some public sector salaries, such as nurses, at a one percent annual increase.

For registered nurse Leah Waxman, that means 47 cents more per hour for her last upbringing, a number that doesn’t make her one to stay in her role.

“Something serious needs to happen to make a drastic change and stop our health care (system) from collapsing … because it is,” she said.

Richard Mullin, a spokesman for Ontario’s Treasury Board, told Granthshala News in a statement that “it is incorrect to suggest that Bill 124 pays wages at one percent annually.”

“Ontario public sector workers will still be able to receive a pay increase for seniority, performance, or increased qualifications, as they currently do,” Mullin explained.

Labor expert Rafael Gomez called the law “repressive.”

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“Health care spending is now the biggest ticket item of any government. So I understand the macro priorities,” said Gomez, director of the Center for Industrial Relations and Human Resources. “But health care is a microscopic phenomenon. When you’re in a hospital and you need help and you want there to be a nurse, it’s affecting you personally. And if there are policies that obstructing it, I think the government is short-sighted.”

In July, Alberta Health Services confirmed that only 18 treatment beds are available at one of its busiest hospitals, the Royal Alexandra, “due to short-term staffing coverage issues.”

Alberta opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said bed closures due to staff pressure were not isolated.

“This has led to bed closures and surgery cancellations and repeated emergency room closures in the communities of Edson, St. Paul, Boyle, Elk Point, Galahad, Westlock, Fairview, Rocky Mountain House, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, High Prairie. Slave Lake, Wainwright, Rimbe and Lacombe.”

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Since then, Alberta’s United Nurses has said the province is hiring contract nurses to address severe staffing shortages in hospitals there.

Meanwhile, in Kamloops, BC, scarcity has become fatal. There last week a 70-year-old woman died while undergoing treatment in the emergency department’s waiting room.

Kamloops-South Thompson legislator Todd Stone said Monday: “The government has let the hospital emergency department situation get dire – we’ve heard reports that on some shifts only three nurses are trying to handle the workload. ” .

Cheryl Cusack of the Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba said nurses are struggling with other mental health problems, including depression and trauma, as a result of their efforts to save coronavirus patients.

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the vacancy rate in Nova Scotia, which was once a seven percent vacancy, has risen to 20 percent.

“Over the past two-and-a-half to three months, we’ve seen 34 people leave the Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department,” said Jason McLean, president of the province’s general employees union. “Six of them did not even have another job. So we need to figure out why they’re leaving, which I think we’re getting, but also need to encourage people to be there. “

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CFNU President Linda Silas told Granthshala News Ottawa that there was a need to “show leadership”.

“We need a commitment from the federal government to create a health care workforce agency,” Silas said. “The federal government will have an agency to see how many nurses we need over five years. What do we need to do today to keep what we have and plan better with the provinces and territories?”

Asked whether it would consider any of these measures, in an email to Granthshala News, Health Canada spokesman Mark Johnson wrote: “Responsibility for matters relating to the administration and delivery of health services, including health workforce planning and management. Comes under the provinces and jurisdictional areas.”

This is not the first time health care experts have asked the Canadian government to create national standards or regulations for nurses.

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