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Candidates Q and A: Labour shortage in health care

Candidates from the four major parties were asked to respond to questions about key issues in the upcoming provincial election
Healthcare workers watch a parade of support outside Groves Hospital in Fergus. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

EloraFergusToday asked the candidates running for the four major parties in the Wellington-Halton Hills riding a series of questions about the upcoming election. Their answers will run nightly over the next two weeks. Responses were limited to 250 words. 

Tonight's question: 'How do we address the labour shortage in healthcare?'

Ted Arnott, Progressive Conservative

If re-elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament on June 2nd, I would continue to support improvements to our health care system, just as I have done in the Ontario Legislature for almost 32 years.

Health care continues to be the most important responsibility of the provincial government. If there was any doubt, we have the past two years of COVID-19 as proof.

We cannot say thank you enough to our health care workers for the extraordinary caring they have shown to get us through the pandemic, thus far. In the early days when so much was unknown, PPE was in short supply, and COVID-19 was running rampant in our nursing homes, they were selfless, and they were magnificent. 

Two years later, even though many are exhausted, they continue to care for us with compassion and dedication. Better pay, improved working conditions, flexible work environments, and overt displays of appreciation from all of us will help to retain our health care workers as we catch up on the backlog of procedures and treatments.

As we begin to return to normal, we need to continue to express our gratitude.

Diane Ballantyne, NDP

Our health care system is woefully understaffed. Health care workers like nurses and Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are underpaid and burnt out.

Ontario’s health care workers are heroes, stepping up every day of the pandemic to keep our communities healthy and safe while facing the threat of infection.

Years of Liberal neglect and underfunding left health care workers stretched thin. Instead of supporting health care workers, the Ford Conservatives cut health care funding and staff.

Ontario can again have a world-class health system. We are committed to investing, not cutting. Specifically we will:

  • Take immediate action to begin hiring 10,000 PSWs, the number experts estimate Ontario is short.
  • Give PSWs a raise of at least $5 above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Take immediate action to begin hiring 30,000 nurses: The number experts say Ontario is short.
  • Expedite recognition of nursing credentials of 15,000 internationally trained nurses so they can get to work in their field faster.
  • We’ll create new jobs for late-career and recently retired nurses to mentor and supervise.
  • We’ll create a job-matching program to guarantee internationally trained physicians get local experience.
  • Eliminate Bill 124 and increase health care workers’ wages: We’ll scrap Doug Ford’s unfair wage cap bill, which prevents nurses and other health care workers from negotiating a fair wage. We will commit to good faith bargaining with the public sector.
  • We’ll develop and implement a strategy to address violence against health care professionals.

Ryan Karho, Green Party

While other parties wait for every problem to reach a crisis point before acting, Greens focus on solving problems at their source before a crisis arrives. 

It is about preventative care and ensuring that our hospitals and emergency clinics and our medical professionals and other medical resources are used in the most effective way possible – respecting them and protecting the system they operate within.

Greens have a plan to focus on real healthcare, one that respects doctors, nurses, PSWs and other health care workers and helps to address the labour shortage. If elected, we will:

  • Establish a nurse-led task force to make recommendations on matters related to the recruitment, retention and safety of nurses.
  • Immediately repeal Bill 124 and the problematic sections of Bill 106 and allow all healthcare workers to bargain collectively for fair wages. Until then, provide a minimum hourly wage of $35 to registered practical nurses and $25 to personal support workers.
  • Increase nursing program enrolments by 10% every year for 7 years and the number of trained nurse practitioners by 50% by 2030 to enable us to meet our target of at least 30,000 additional nurses.
  • Support certification upgrades for healthcare workers through expanded bridging programs at publicly funded post-secondary institutions.
  • Fast-track credential approvals for 15,000 international healthcare workers, including nurses and personal support workers.
  • Guarantee access to the most appropriate safety equipment in all healthcare facilities and use the precautionary principle when protecting workers.
  • Provide support for Black and Indigenous healthcare workers

Tom Takacs, Liberal

The Liberal plan will hire 100,000 new health care workers including nurses, doctors and other health care workers. We will cover tuition costs for medical and nursing students that will work in rural and remote communities and we will train 3,000 new mental health and addictions workers.