Poll suggests 40% of Ontario hospital workers considering quitting; union calls on province to address staffing crisis

Unions representing thousands of Ontario Healthcare workers are calling on the Ford government to take action after a new survey painted a grim picture of the profession. Tina Yazdani reports.

The union representing thousands of Ontario health-care workers say the Ford government needs to do more to address a staffing crisis with a new poll suggesting nearly half of hospital staff in the province are considering leaving their jobs.

The numbers come from a new Nanos survey which suggests 41 per cent of the province’s hospital staff say they “dread going into work,” with 43 per cent saying they are considering a new career path.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing some health-care workers in Ontario, say the data points to a staffing crisis that could only get worse if the province doesn’t step in.

“The results of this survey are alarming,” says Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), in a Wednesday morning news conference at Queen’s Park. “It illustrates the gravity of the staffing crisis that has been years in the making, but it is now reaching a new breaking point.”

“(It) confirms that workers are deeply unhappy of working conditions with profound consequences on their mental health.”

The survey finds nearly 4 in 5 (79 per cent) workers are not confident the provincial government will improve the health-care system in 2024.

“How are we going to keep our hospitals functioning without staff?” Richer said. “It’s shocking to note that the government doesn’t have a retention plan.”

“The whole system depends on workers – and yet their needs continue to be neglected.”

Union leaders say the province needs to invest an additional $1.25 billion annually over the next five years to help improve staffing levels and boost capacity. OCHU/CUPE is proposing implementing staff-to-patient ratios in Ontario hospitals to help out the working conditions.

“Staffing ratios would make a huge difference by setting a minimum standard of care,” said Dave Verch, first vice president of OCHU/CUPE, in a statement. “It would offer a glimmer of hope that the government is serious about fixing this crisis.”

In addition, Verch is calling for better compensation and an increase in full-time jobs in the sector.

In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry of Health says the province was able to add 15,000 new nurses last year and continues to grow and support the healthcare sector.

“We have broken down barriers to make it easier for internationally and interprovincially educated nurses to register and practice in Ontario,” says ministry spokesperson Hannah Jensen, adding that “Ontario’s nurses are one of the highest paid nursing workforces across the country.”

Opposition NDP leader Marit Stiles says the Ford government needs to heed the call from the unions and stop “underinvesting” in hospitals.

“There is an all-out crisis in our hospitals and the Conservatives are pretending everything is okay — the reality is far from it,” said Stiles in a statement. “Wait times are worsening and the Conservatives have made the Liberals’ hallway health care the new norm. Emergency rooms are closing an unprecedented rate.”

Last month, the province’s acting auditor general found that Ontario had no central plan to help hospitals tackle nurse shortages that lead to temporary emergency department closures. There were more than 200 unplanned temporary emergency department closures in 23 Ontario hospitals between July 2022 and June 2023.

The recent Nanos survey polled 774 hospital workers from across the province.

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