ONA is bringing in nurses from elsewhere

‘It’s going to bankrupt health care’: Spending on temp agency nurses up more than 550% since pre-pandemic at one Toronto hospital network

More than 550 per cent in real terms, the new numbers reveal.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association is pushing back against the notion that a few nurses from Canada’s temporary foreign workers program will save the health-care system.

They say they are saving the system. But the numbers are showing that they have been saving the government rather than the system.

That’s because staffing has been cut back on some, and that’s been offset by increased staffing on others. While the number of nurses in place has gone down by 25 per cent, the Ontario Nurses Association says the number of nurses employed as a result of the temporary foreign workers program has gone up by more than 550 per cent since the pandemic.

“I would say that there has been a net increase of 55,000 nurses specifically in the hospital system and in nursing homes,” said Kathleen Stewart, an organizer for the ONA.

But the numbers don’t do that.

They show that the ONA has been making up for the lack of nurses by bringing in nurses from elsewhere in the country. There have been five different moves by the ONA to import nurses from other countries, all without any consultation.

Nursing homes, emergency departments and hospitals all seem to benefit.

“We are continuing to recruit locally due to the lack of nurses,” said Stewart. “We are bringing in nurses but we are making up the deficit, not losing nurses.”

When Stewart went to the Ontario Health Coalition in May she learned of a plan to bring in nurses from Canada’s temporary foreign workers program, TFWs, to be used in hospitals and nursing homes as a “safety net” for staffing. ONA has hired the nurses and is employing them.

“The ONA staff, on average, are the highest quality in the province, and it’s been proven to work,” said Stewart. “We have actually saved hospitals as well in the past and we are continuing to see the value in the program.”

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