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Ontario Hospitals Will Face Staffing Shortages Until 2026, Provincial Fiscal Watchdog Says

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office warns the province’s health care system is on pace to struggle for at least the next several years

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According to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, current spending plans from Doug Ford’s government will leave hospital beds in the province understaffed until 2026.

Ontario’s health care system has been in and out of crisis since the start of the pandemic, owing to years of funding cuts and wage freezes.

Across the system, influxes of patients are overwhelming short-staffed facilities, especially hospitals and, more recently, children’s hospitals – both by COVID-19 cases and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases.

“We have the lowest nurse: patient ratio per capita in the country,” Angela Preocanin, first vice president of the Ontario Nurses Association, told PressProgress. “Typically where you’d have a nurse: patient ratio of 1:5 on a medical unit, it’s now 1:8.”

“In Intensive Care Units (ICUs) with significant, critically ill patients, 1:1 would be the norm. Now? 1:3 is not unheard of.”

But according to the FAO, the government’s current spending plans suggest the staffing crisis in Ontario hospitals will not end until at least 2026:

“With the addition of new hospital beds from 2017 to 2021, the number of employees as a share of total hospital beds declined from a historical average of 6.8 employees per hospital bed to a low of 6.0 in 2020 and increased to 6.3 in 2021. The FAO assumes that the employee-to-hospital bed ratio will increase to the 6.8 historical average by 2026-27.”

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According to the late September report, the Ford government’s plans will add 1,300 new hospital beds over ten years to its roughly 35,300 existing acute beds. But, according to the FAO, the provincial government’s plan to hire an additional 23,000 hospital staff by 2026 will only work out to about 2.3% per year.

“There is no health care without the dedicated care from nurses and health care professionals. A bed is just a bed without the staffing and support to ensure the patient is receiving quality care,” Bernie Robinson, ONA’s Interim Provincial President told PressProgress.

Asked about the data, an FAO spokesperson said the study did not break down the new spending plans by types of healthcare workers and declined to comment further.

According to the Canadian Institute For Health Information, Ontario’s hospitals employed 64,579 nurses as of 2021, up only slightly from 64,176 in 2020 and 63,515 in 2019.

Elsewhere, documents from Ontario Health show Ford’s government is also looking for new “efficiencies” in healthcare staffing.

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Ontario Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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