Nursing in the News

RNAO applauds court decision to strike down Bill 124 but still awaits repeal

The Superior Court of Justice has declared Bill 124 to be “void and of no effect,” as it violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. RNAO’s President Dr. Claudette Holloway thanks the court for its decision, saying it is a great day for nurses across the province who have been demanding that the Ford government repeal Bill 124. She also congratulates the applicants in the case, including the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). “This legislation has been a thorn in the side of the nursing profession since 2019 when it was brought in. It capped annual salary increases at one per cent and led to an exodus of nurses from the profession. Bill 124 conveyed to nurses that their expertise was not valued nor respected.” (See also Globe and Mail, Dec. 1, for further information.)

Chief medical officer recommends masks but issues no mandate

On Nov. 14, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, recommended people wear masks in indoor settings given what he described as a triple threat of influenza virus, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The Toronto Star noted the announcement dismayed RNAO, which had been calling for a mask mandate to deal with increasing infection numbers and growing pressure on nurses and hospital emergency rooms and ICUs. RNAO’s President Dr. Claudette Holloway added in a separate media release: “Until the government engages the necessary actions, RNAO urges every Ontarian to wear a mask in indoor public settings and get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza.” In a new development: RSV is now spreading, as well, which is highly contagious. Children’s immune systems are affected much more severely by symptoms that would resemble a common cold in an adult. Therefore, emergency rooms are seeing a spike in respiratory viruses in young children. Some of the more critically ill children are also on ventilators, which forces hospitals to re-allocate those ventilators, which can cause delays in procedures and postpone surgeries. Although data have shown that a mask mandate is needed – positivity rate for the flu is up almost 50 per cent – the provincial government has been slow to respond. (Toronto Star, Nov. 14.) 

Funding announced to retain and recruit more NPs in Ontario

In October, the Ontario government re-affirmed funding for long-term care (LTC) in an announcement from the Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra. RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun participated on the announcement and said that having more NPs in LTC will benefit the residents greatly. “They were the ones that were there 24/7 in the homes that were lucky to have them.” Previously, in August, the government announced $57.6 million in funding over three years to help LTC homes. This funding will add up to 225 NPs to the system. (Toronto Sun, Oct. 5)

Nurses call on mayoral candidates to support decriminalizing simple drug possession

Preliminary 2021 data from Public Health Ontario showed that 2,880 people died in Ontario from an opioid-related overdose – an 85 per cent increase over pre-pandemic levels. “Nurses have been sounding the alarm on this preventable health crisis and offering evidence-based substance use policy since before the pandemic, yet we have continued to see the number of deaths, hospitalizations and emergency visits soar due to limited or no direct services and supports and an increasingly toxic drug supply,” says RNAO President Dr. Claudette Holloway. “Through this campaign, we are urging mayoral candidates to confront the impacts of the overdose crisis in their cities and to take action upon election.” On Oct. 3, RNAO and its members sent letters to mayoral candidates from across the province, running for municipal office asking them to sign a pledge in support of decriminalizing simple drug possession. (Blackburn News, Oct. 5)

Ministry of Health directs provincial college of nurses to expedite internationally educated nurse applications

In a move applauded and long championed by RNAO, Minister of Health Sylvia Jones directed the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to expedite the applications of internationally educated nurses (IEN) to address the current nursing shortage as of Sept. 7. The CNO will allow IENs living in Ontario to join the workforce once they fulfill the requirements. The CNO said that this could benefit nearly 6,000 applicants and get them out into the workforce. RNAO President Dr. Claudette Holloway says that although the move will help alleviate the province’s nursing crisis, she pinpoints that much more needs to be done: “This is tied up in repealing Bill 124. In addition to expediting the registration of IENs we also need to entice and encourage back... those who have left.” (CityNews Ottawa, Sept. 7)

Federal government finally announces Canada’s new chief nursing officer

For the first time since 2011, Canada has a national chief nursing officer (CNO). RN Leigh Chapman was appointed on Aug. 23 in a special ceremony in Ottawa. Chapman has worked in nursing for almost 20 years and has a background in critical care and community care. Most recently, Chapman was the director of clinical services with Inner City Health in Toronto. Her work there included overseeing the nursing program, caring for people experiencing homelessness and who were affected by COVID-19.  RNAO was pleased with the appointment and had been advocating vocally for the CNO role to be reinstated. CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun says the appointment will “start to rebuild the confidence of the nursing profession that Canada is serious about respect for nurses.” (CityNews, Aug. 23)

Brain drain: New nurses impacted by loss of experienced nurses 

In an opinion piece, RN Enxhi Kondi shared her perspective on experienced nurses leaving the profession and how their practice-related knowledge will disappear along with them. “The preservation of experienced nurses should be of utmost priority in handling our current health-care crisis in Ontario, yet this is largely inconsistent with the government’s approach,” Kondi writes. She notes that while the government has begun initiatives to encourage people to pursue a career in nursing, the loss of experienced nurses and the mentorship they provide will still be acutely felt. “Even if the government is successful at expanding the nursing workforce with new nurses, it cannot compensate for the loss of knowledge, support and training that expert nurses traditionally impart to novices.” (Toronto Star, Aug. 22)

NP-led clinic in Orillia to help address health-care crisis

A shortage of family physicians has left many people without access to a primary care provider, so Orillia NPs Cathy Suppa and Janet Greaves submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Health for a new NP-led clinic. Three NPs have signed on to work at the clinic, so far. The clinic will be able to serve 3,200 patients who don’t currently have a health provider. The clinic will also serve populations that face barriers to accessing health services due to a range of social determinants of health including income, employment, food security and housing. “If we could really get to that baseline and get them connected, and be that access point, we can help raise overall wellness and we can bridge that gap as primary care providers,” adds Suppa. (Orillia Today, Aug. 1)

Ontario summer camp teaches rural students about careers in health care

A summer camp in Goderich provided high school students from rural communities in southwestern Ontario with a window into careers in health care. The camp, which was led by Western University nursing and medical students, taught students about how to apply casts and take vital signs. Campers learned about the wide variety of career opportunities in health care, as guest speakers, including rural health-care professionals, shared highlights of their own experiences. Acute care nurse Ally Hulley says that there is something in the health-care field for everyone. “There’s so many tiers and different options and you can work with a variety of populations. Health care’s constantly evolving and advancing, so if you’re up for a challenge it’s the perfect setting.” Camper Alaiya Chisholm aspires to become a pediatric nurse and said she enjoyed learning about all the different types of nursing available. “I never thought nursing (could) go as wide as it can.” (CBC News, July 15)