We’ve all heard the saying that it never rains, but it pours. We all know that in life, sometimes things go wrong. Unfortunately, at the moment, it appears that such is the case for Ontario’s health care system. Long before the onset of the pandemic and all of the issues that came in tow with it, Ontario health care officials sounded alarms. They were desperately trying to make us all aware of the onslaught of problems they had coming rolling down upon us all. It started long ago with underfunding by the Liberals followed by impossible cuts made by Doug Ford.
Ever since the Ford Conservatives took power in 2018, our health care system has been running a gauntlet of problems. And after the pandemic hit, we have experienced a steep downward spiral.
One of the most concerning issues at the moment is the urgent need for a health care retention and recruitment action plan. Our valiant health care workers are truly exhausted from stress and overwork. Nurses and personal support workers are leaving their jobs across the country with no intention of ever returning. This professional exodus has caused shortages in which every shift, week in and week out, is shorthanded. Now has become an endless cycle as more workers burn out, again leading to more vacant positions.
The Ford government has exacerbated this situation by passing Bill 124, wage restraint legislation. The bill limits healthcare workers, among others, to a meagre 1 percent pay increase. This action can’t help but lead workers to feel that Doug Ford was disingenuous when praising them as true heroes. Unfortunately, this is a case in which actions speak louder than words. Bill 124 is causing the wages of Ontario healthcare workers to fall behind others across the country. Frontline workers are left reeling and feeling even more abandoned and disrespected.
The staff shortages leave patients anxiously waiting and pain longer. As a result, wait times for appointments and treatment are growing longer, and surgeries are being put off. The shortages lead to further unnecessary pain, suffering and potential fatalities. Ontario needs more frontline health care workers. No one should have to experience prolonged agony waiting for the care they need.
At some of our hospitals, despite the best efforts of administration, doctors and staff, ER waits are hours long. The wait time for a first appointment with a specialist when a patient needs knee replacement surgery is already over three months long. On top of this, the backlog of surgeries that were postponed because of the pandemic adds further anxiety for those waiting for surgery.
We need a plan right now that trains new healthcare workers and gives them full-time jobs at fair wages. And we need a plan that properly funds hospitals, long-term care homes and other healthcare settings so that there is enough staff on each shift. Patients and their loved ones need assurance that people get the quality of care they deserve. And workers need to be protected from burnout or injury from accidents caused by exhaustion. And to be sure, Northern Ontario must get its fair share.
It is important to note also that the former Liberal government cut 1,600 nursing jobs during years of hospital budget freezes. Worse, Doug Ford has not restored any of them even as a pandemic gripped our health care system. In contrast to how Doug Ford is handling our healthcare crisis is Quebec’s program. In that province, they are spending $1 billion to retain nurses and hire new administrative workers to support them to focus on patients. In the summer of 2020, Quebec also hired 10,000 personal support workers.
The NDP has been suggesting for some time now a means to resolve healthcare worker shortages permanently. Canada is fortunate to be a favoured location for Internationally-trained professionals who immigrate from all over the world to this great province. Not only could they fill the vacancies, but they deserve a chance to continue working in their fields and build a life here as a Canadian family. Unfortunately, despite spending years studying and training to earn their credentials and honing their expertise, they lack a pathway to recognizing their credentials and expertise. As a result, the people of Ontario lose out on the thousands of desperately needed doctors, nurses, therapists and other professionals who want to help and become Canadian citizens.
Recently, the Ford government announced changes regarding what credentials and qualifications from foreign countries that the Ontario government will accept. But, unfortunately, the revised list still excludes all doctors, nurses and medical professionals. So here we sit with thousands of Ontarians suffering because of a critical shortage of medical professionals. And our government can’t seem to see the obvious pathway to solving the problem.
After years of fighting for immigrants to have their international training and credentials recognized in Ontario, the NDP is disappointed in the steps taken by the government. The government announced that Ontario still will not accept internationally accredited certifications for immigrants.
So yes, our healthcare system is in a crisis, running a gauntlet of issues. However, the good news is that there are steps that we can take to get our healthcare system back on track. New Democrats know the pathway to such success. First and foremost, focus on providing Ontarians with the healthcare that they need and deserve. Second, treat healthcare workers with the dignity and respect they deserve and provide fair working conditions and wages. Third, provide the necessary funding for our hospitals to meet the medical needs of the people. And finally, tap into the incredible strength, skill and knowledge of our professionally trained immigrants and give them a chance to contribute and make Ontario stronger.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député