April 22, 2024

St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener is cutting its roster of registered nurses in a bid to save money, as the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) warns of crisis-level staffing at hospitals across the province.

ONA is the union representing 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates. They provide care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community clinics.

“Our patient to nurse ratio has gone to 5:1 or 6:1 on a normal day and it has even gone to 7:1,” said Courtney Fegan, an RPN at St. Mary’s General Hospital.

The hospital currently has 50 vacant RN positions, and the struggle for recruitment remains with serious RPN and RN shortages in Ontario.

St. Mary’s informed the ONA that it will cut registered nurses’ positions on a handful of units and replace some with workers who are paid less than RNs.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not respond to emails requesting comment on the staffing cuts.

“In Doug Ford’s Ontario, there is no end to the sneaky ways that will be used to disrespect registered nurses and erode our public health care,” said Erin Ariss, ONA Provincial President, in media release. “After a years-long fight for decent wage increases to help address workforce retention, the Ford government’s failure to fund public hospitals appropriately is now resulting in hospital CEOs looking at cutting RN positions to balance the books.”

The issue spreads across the country reaching Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and beyond. Ontario, however, has the highest demand for nurses in Canada, according to MDC Canada, an immigration consultancy.

The demand is increasing in all healthcare facilities, including private home care, small clinics, and hospitals.

“We urge Ontarians to pay attention to the deliberate harm the Ford government and hospital CEOs are doing to our public health-care system and speak up, loudly,” said Ariss.

Service closures in hospitals are becoming more common, and longer as a result of funding and staffing cuts, according to the Ontario Health Coalition, an advocacy group.

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