Ontario cutting ‘red tape’ to lure healthcare workers to Ontario: Ford

The Ontario government is trying to lure healthcare workers to leave other Canadian provinces and territories. Richard Southern with what Premier Doug Ford is promising, and why advocates say the plan won't work.

By Michael Talbot

While Alberta tries to lure workers from other provinces with promises of affordable housing and mountain vistas, Ontario’s dangling carrot is the chance to work in the province’s beleaguered healthcare system.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday that his government will be introducing legislation next month that will allow healthcare workers enlisted in other provinces and territories to immediately “start working and caring for people in Ontario.”

“We need as many people as possible,” Ford said Thursday in Windsor. “We welcome you with open arms. You don’t need to go through any bureaucratic red tape. You arrive here with your credentials, we’ll immediately find [work] for you, and you’ll have a great lifestyle when you arrive here in Ontario.”

According to a Ministry of Health release, the province will also — on a short-term basis — allow health care professionals, including nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, and others, to work outside of their regular responsibilities or settings, as long as they have the knowledge skill and judgement to do so.”

Ontario’s healthcare system has faced immense pressure with the emergence of COVID-19, followed by a surge of other seasonal viruses that hit children especially hard.

Staffing shortages forced some hospitals to close their emergency departments and critical care units.

A leaked report suggested 90 per cent of patients waited up to 12 hours in an emergency room in Sept. 2022 — a 17 per cent increase compared to the same month the previous year.

Once the patients were admitted, 90 per cent of them waited up to 45 hours to complete their visit — up 40.5 per cent compared to last year.

“This was the worst September on record, dating all the way back to 2008,” Liberal health critic Dr. Adil Shamji said last November.

RELATED: Ontario unveils three-step plan to tackle hospital wait times, surgical backlog

The dire situation forced hospitals to shift priorities, with many elective surgeries put on the back burner.

The Ford government recently announced steps to reduce and improve surgery wait times across the province, including a plan to expand surgeries in private clinics — a move that was met with resistance from healthcare unions.

On Thursday, Ford said opening up Ontario to out-of-province healthcare workers is necessary to combat the strains on the system.

“We need to be bold, innovative and creative,” he said.

“A doctor from British Columbia or a nurse from Quebec who wants to come work in Ontario shouldn’t face bureaucratic delays to start providing care.”

Vice President of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), Angela Preocanin, told CityNews she has concerns that healthcare workers from other provinces would be able to start working without registering in Ontario.

“There still is an accountability to ensure they are registered, that they are regulated and that they are accountable for the care they provide,” she said. “So not registering with their own regulatory bodies here, is very concerning. Who is going to govern that? Who is going to manage that?”

She’s also concerned with the portion of the legislation that would allow some healthcare workers to work in jobs outside of their usual scope.

“They are going to be perhaps working outside of the scope that they are regulated in, and that is concerning that has seriously implications to patients and practitioners.”

“What our ask would be (of the Ford government) is invest in nurses and the healthcare professionals that you have here in this province, and use that money to ensure that the people that have left come back, and the ones that are here, are retained.”

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