A group representing emergency physicians across the country has a message for Canada’s premiers: come up with a coordinated plan to prevent their workplaces from closing due to staffing shortages that are creating an unprecedented crisis in health care .
Dr Atul Kapur, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, said premiers meeting in Victoria on Monday and Tuesday must prioritize the recruitment and retention of emergency medical professionals. health, and not just in the short term.
“We have been sounding the alarm about the shortage of doctors and nurses for some time,” Kapur said, adding that the temporary closure of emergency rooms is particularly troubling in rural areas because the next biggest emergency close is often far.
One of the biggest shortcomings in the health care system is the lack of nurses, said Kapur, an emergency physician in Ottawa.
“We recognize that our nursing colleagues are vital, that in (emergency) in particular, they are even more stressed than they are for us, as they bear the brunt of the anger of patients and families more than we do. “
A shortage of nurses on wards means patients admitted to hospital languish in emergency departments, leaving fewer beds available for those stuck in waiting rooms, including people who don’t have no family doctor, Kapur said.
Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows patients admitted across Canada waited 38.3 hours in emergency rooms in 2019-20, up from 29.3 hours five years earlier. The total number of visits reached almost 1.6 million during this period, compared to just over 1.1 million.
The figures apply to 90% of patients, and Kapur said 10% waited even longer.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan, chairman of the Council of the Federation made up of the country’s 13 premiers, joined his colleagues in calling on the federal government to increase its share of health care spending from 22 to 35% as it attempts to implement initiatives to improve the system.
Horgan said he met Justin Trudeau last November when the prime minister visited British Columbia following catastrophic flooding. He said he told Trudeau about the premiers’ concerns about health costs, which will be discussed at their first in-person meeting in three years.
Trudeau has committed to building a team to work on health financing, but that has yet to materialize, Horgan said in an interview.
“Eight months of what I thought was a concerted effort has produced nothing but a meeting in Victoria where we will all come together to express our deep disappointment with Ottawa’s lack of leadership,” he said. he declares.
Trudeau said the federal share of spending on health care transfers would be negotiated after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Horgan, who criticized the April federal budget for not including health care funding, said he and his colleagues are ready to meet Ottawa’s expectations for any accountability measures that come with more money.
But first ministers must first know what kinds of “chains” will be attached to them, he said, adding that national solutions are needed to deal with the problems plaguing the provinces and territories.
But Horgan suggested he was not in favor of jurisdictions working together to nationally license medical professionals, allowing them to work anywhere in the country, because that would “poach” employees. people once their training has been paid for.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province has an ambitious plan to rebuild its health care system and the federal government can help by paying its fair share of health care funding.
“The premiers have called on the federal government to come to the table and be a true fiscal partner,” he said in a written statement.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said when universal health care was implemented in Canada, it was envisioned as a 50% split between federal and provincial governments.
“COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of the Canadian healthcare system, and we must address these weaknesses for Canadians,” he said in a statement.
Dr Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said allowing healthcare workers to be mobile would “relieve pressure points” as part of a solution to increase resources where they are needed.
“When a universal health care system fails to meet the basic health care needs of Canadians, we must accept that it has failed and work together to fix it,” she said. said in a statement. “It will take more than just investing more money.”
Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said some emergency and intensive care units that would have been staffed with 20 nurses now had half that.
Ontario’s wage-limiting legislation means many nurses leave to work for agencies so they have flexible hours and a choice of employers, or leave the profession due to poor working conditions, Silas said. .
“So the message I’m trying to get across to prime ministers is: I’ve never, in 30 years of union work, seen nurses so angry. And it’s a tough bunch.
Some Premiers have indicated they will focus on other priorities at the meeting.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said at a recent news conference that he wanted to address issues with Canada’s energy supply.
“The first request would be to take a very serious look at the policy positions taken by the Government of Canada that prevent … the production of some of the most sustainable energy in the world,” Moe said.
Kenney said the premiers will also discuss internal trade and how they can address the tens of billions of dollars in economic activity lost each year due to barriers put in place by provinces.
The “historic labor shortage” in Canada is also a concern for Ford. Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson echoed that sentiment, saying lower immigration during the pandemic has contributed to the problem.
“We need the federal government to work with us to address the labor shortage to ensure our economy remains strong during these challenging times,” Ford said in a statement.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 10, 2022.
— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Colette Derworiz in Edmonton
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