During a press conference at Queen’s Park on Jan. 30, the RNAO unveiled Why Your Health Matters, a new report that focuses on policy reform in the areas of poverty, the environment, nursing care, and medicare.
The group said health care in Ontario is in a precarious position as a declining number of registered nurses have adversely affected its RN-to-population ratio, making it among the lowest in Canada.
This declining work force negatively impacted nurses’ workloads and the outcomes of patients, said RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun at the conference.
She highlighted that in the last year, Ontario lost over 1,000 RN positions, and that as Ontario’s population ages, the need to reverse this decline will become increasingly vital.
“The most urgent thing is to put the focus on not attracting RNs, but employing RNs,” she said.
Nursing and health care reform in Ontario requires a critical reevaluation of the roles of RNs and particular attention to be paid to preventative care, said MPP France Gélinas, the NDP’s critic for health and long-term care in Ontario.
Speaking to the NDP’s priorities and perspectives, Gélinas said, “I don’t see an NDP government going out to make our hospitals bigger. An NDP government is a whole lot more committed in bringing forward a strong and robust health promotion and disease prevention strategy.”
The office of Deb Matthews, the provincial minster of health and long-term care, was unavailable to comment.
One way the RNAO proposes changing the roles of RNs is by allowing them to prescribe medication and order medical testing, practices currently being considered by other provinces.
Looking at how these proposals could affect Humber’s nursing students, Dr. Kathleen White-Williams said she welcomes what an increased number of available positions would mean for graduating students, but cautioned that a reexamination of the role of RNs would cause a fundamental shift in the way nurses are educated.
“For a new graduate to be able to do those types of things, then the scope of practice for registered nurses will have to change, and the educational component related to becoming a graduate will also have to really have a good look at it,” she said.
Grinspun said acting decisively, effectively, and quickly is important.
Channeling former health minister George Smitherman, Grinspun said, “the time for pilots is over; we know what the health care system needs.”