As the nursing shortage continue to overwhelm hospitals across the province, Quebec has joined the other provinces in bewailing the state of the health system, brought about by the ever- increasing shortage.
A multiplicity of reasons have been proffered as being contributory to the current state of affairs, however absent from among them is the real reason.
Do not for one moment believe that things got this bad by accident. The crisis being faced today has been years in the making: Years of underinvestment. Years of inadequate planning. Years of creeping privatization. Years of weakened or fragmented regulation.
In Canada this problem dates back as far as the 2008 recession, when all governments put blinders on what was happening in health care, and failed to pay any attention. Now the festering wound has become infected and has others affected.
Additionally the stranglehold budget cut implemented in 2015 by the Liberals that resulted in increased workloads, implementation of forced overtime, marked increase of nurse-patient ratios, with accompanying lack of respect from hospital leadership.
Plainly stated, nurses were treated like commodities— marketable goods that lacked differentiation across markets, ones that were easily replaceable on account of the lack of differentiation.
Nowhere was the nurse regarded or viewed as a service asset. Ironically, I was among a group of nurses recruited from Great Britain to answer the nursing shortage facing Canada in the 70’s.
Not only experience but also specialization of nursing skills made us perfect candidates to fill the gap, as the vast majority of British trained nurses arrived with qualifications supernumerary to the basic Registered Nurse qualification held by their Canadian counterparts
In 2021, following a rigorous consultation process of over 1, 200 nurses, the Estates-General on the nursing profession, led by Francine Ducharme honorary professor at the Nursing Faculty of the University of Montréal, researcher and dean from 2015 to 2020, and Robert Salois, former Health and Welfare Commissioner, Government of Quebec (2006-2016), provided the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services and stakeholders of the profession with 31 recommendations aimed at improving the attractiveness of the profession and the retention of nurses in the healthcare system.
“This exercise shows that the status quo is simply not possible and that substantial changes are needed to ensure the quality of care, the health of Quebec’s population and the future of the system”, Ducharme said . “The reality and the health needs of the population are no longer the same and we must, more than ever, recognize nursing expertise and really consider it within the organization of care,” she continued, adding that about 1,000 nurses left the public sector to join the private sector this past year, which is 300 more than during previous years”. Nurses, when they have the choice, will go where they are respected, rewarded for their competencies and problem-solving skills, challenged appropriately, and given opportunities for personal development.
The critical shortage of nurses is a problem across the country, including in major cities, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), which represents about 200,000 nurses.
Nurses’ unions, labour economists and others have been sounding the alarm for years that the number of qualified nurses was already falling short of demand in Canada, especially given an aging population. As the need for nurses is growing exponentially daily Registered Nurses are one of the fastest-growing subsets of healthcare professionals .In a crisis like the one created in long-term care homes during COVID outbreaks, governments have responded with a multiplicity of announcements and incentives geared at creating thousands more personal support worker positions, she said.
But even the construction industry has a federally funded forecasting agency that’s the envy of nurses. “You know how many electricians you will need in five years….” According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data, in the first quarter of this year, nearly one out of five unfilled jobs in Canada was in the health-care and social assistance sector, which includes nurses.
The biggest year-over-year increases in vacancies were among registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, which had 7,200 more open jobs than in early 2020. Total vacancies for the whole sector were 98,000, with nursing and residential care positions representing the two largest subgroups.
The offer by Quebec Premier François Legault of financial incentives to persuade nurses to return to the public system, along with overseas head-hunting may all be good moves in the right direction, but sadly, perhaps a little too late.
Past promises made were never kept. It is not enough just to hire more nurses; it is equally important to provide the working conditions where nurses will stay in the roles where they are needed the most.
Before bringing strangers into our already chaotic healthcare system, what should be put in place is a humane HUMAN RESOURCE PLAN that addresses healthcare needs now and in the future.
This should be the prière if Quebec is to avert foreign infirmières en colère.
Aleuta continua——–The struggle continues.