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Story highlights Affordable care is one of our country’s most important assets.

Medicare provides that at a cost, however, often surpassing costs in Canada

Ontario’s nurse shortage is hurting the health system there.

Canada’s most populous province of Ontario is burdened with a shortage of nurses.

A 2017 survey of 1,400 nurses conducted by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) found that nurses were unwilling to work in Ontario due to their fear of job insecurity and a lack of flexibility in workload. The results showed a 66% decline in rate of recruitment for 2010-11 to 2017-18 compared to the rest of the country.

Now, Ontario’s $34 billion public-sector budget is less than the $37 billion budget of Saskatchewan, where it starts. The deficit and scarcity of skilled nurses is scaring potential job candidates who, according to CNA, would be considered good candidates in other provinces.

In the past, nurses and professors have believed the high-skilled shortage in Ontario was resolved with an increase in nursing admissions, according to CNA Executive Director Colleen Turnbull. But the agency says the latest census data of 60,000 people shows a rise in permanent residence in the province.

“With the population increasing, the gaps in nursing education (and) anticipated transition of nurses out of nursing, plus a low rate of recruitments compared to other provinces (and the fact that) temporary foreign workers do not come with the same benefits, coupled with high-skilled job opportunities in provinces like Quebec or Alberta, it becomes a bad package in Ontario,” she said.

Simply put, nurses in Ontario are potentially losing their jobs to health-care systems in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In addition to worries about job security, Ontario’s shortage is affecting the quality of care patients receive.

“In the past five years (since the survey), our drop in the rate of recruiting nurses meant that our province was losing out on recruiting and retaining nurses,” Turnbull said.

The result has been an increase in long waits for patients undergoing specialized care, hospitals reaching their upper limits of resources and shortages in nursing units. The hospitals don’t have the staff to handle the overflow, and hospitals are increasingly turning to crowding instead of capital projects for growth.

Turnbull says two-thirds of hospitals, none of which is in Ontario, are not fully staffed with nurses. She says 77% of patients are waiting 45 minutes to two hours for a critical care nurse during the overnight and peak patient hours.

Based on the report, Ontario nurses are actually worse off financially than people in other provinces. The median income in the province for 2011-12 was C$58,700, whereas the median income for Saskatchewan (from 2010-11) was C$71,828.

Nurses in Ontario make C$9.60 per hour, compared to C$13.72 per hour in Saskatchewan, a difference of C$8.38. Meanwhile, the median annual income for Canadians in 2011-12 was C$51,778.

Turnbull said she expects the problem to only get worse as the Canadian economy improves. The province has recently passed legislation to alleviate the burden on nurses and soon-to-be-graduating nurses, while also laying out $54 million for new nurses’ schools.

“In order to ensure that Ontarians are getting the best possible care, our nursing leaders believe that nurses and the government must join forces,” Turnbull said.

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