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RNAO welcomes health funding offer; Ottawa must set conditions for bilateral agreement with Ontario that addresses the nursing crisis and drops plan to fund for-profit clinics

TORONTO, Feb. 7, 2023 /CNW/ - A 10-year health funding offer for provinces and territories is being welcomed by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) as a much-needed lifeline for the country's ailing health system. RNAO says Ottawa must set strict conditions on the upcoming bilateral agreement with Ontario, to address the nursing crisis and drop plans to fund for-profit surgical clinics.

"A prolonged pandemic and an exodus of nurses from hospitals, along with other systemic issues, including inadequate access to primary care providers have been cause for concern among Canadians who have experienced long wait times for surgeries and delays in accessing primary care," says Dr. Claudette Holloway, RNAO's president.

"The funding announced Tuesday while falling short of the 35 per cent threshold that premiers, territorial leaders and RNAO had argued was necessary, will begin to set the system on the road to recovery ? but additional federal funding is still needed. We will now be focused on the bilateral agreement Ottawa expects to negotiate and sign with Ontario in the coming weeks with the number one priority being increasing the number of working RNs, NPs, and RPNs in Ontario," says Holloway.  

"Our health system will continue to collapse without nurses. That's why we have to retain the nurses we have and stop the exodus we have seen due to crushing workloads, and a lack of respect when it comes to their compensation. Their work and expertise must be valued," urges Holloway.

Primary care should be central to the bilateral agreement. Holloway says "an effective, patient-centred, primary care system with access to providers 24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week is the only way to ensure a high performing health system. And, Tuesday's funding offer means NPs and family physicians can play a central role in strengthening the health system. The time is now," she adds, saying that "we have NPs ready to open NP-led clinics in communities where there is demonstrated need. People without access to primary care are waiting."

RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun says she is "pleased that nurses' priority areas are reflected in the plans unveiled by Ottawa including primary care, hiring more nurses and other health-care workers, mental health and substance use supports, as well as data measurement ? where RNAO  is already playing a key role with its NQuIRE data system."

The question remains what will happen with home care and long-term care (LTC) when the funding previously provided by the federal government ends. These two sectors must also remain as top priorities. "Home care is central to helping people recover from surgeries and others with chronic conditions. And, when it comes to improvements in LTC, we are just now gaining momentum and improvements will need to continue for years," Grinspun adds.

Grinspun says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement that upholding the Canada Health Act (CHA) and protecting the country's publicly funded health system "is non-negotiable" is critical given Ontario and other provinces plan to open or expand investor-driven surgical clinics. "For-profit delivery of medically necessary services is a step towards a two-tier health system. It is an affront to the principles and spirit of the CHA and it must be stopped. The federal government is accountable for setting-up conditions in its bilateral agreements with all jurisdictions to abandon plans for for-profit enrichment on the backs of Canadians' health."

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

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