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April 12, 2021

Canada Needs Better Health Data Infrastructure to support our healthcare heroes

Long-term care
Media Release
Safe Staffing

The following media release has been published by the Canadian Health Workforce Network.

Canada needs better health data infrastructure to support our healthcare heroes

Associations, unions, networks and researchers call on federal government to invest in data infrastructure to better plan for and support the health workforce

(Ottawa, ON) — More than 60 researchers, educators, associations, healthcare unions and network members from across the country call on the federal government to make significant and immediate investments in data infrastructures to better plan for and support the health workforce.

Improved health system planning through better health workforce data can make a world of difference for health workers and the Canadian public.

Specifically, the signatories call on the federal government to address critical data and information gaps and help coordinate the collection and analysis of enhanced workforce data in support of decision-making by provinces, territories, regions and training programs.

“Canada’s health workers have been here for all of us throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for us to be there for them,” says the statement which was spearheaded by the Canadian Health Workforce Network and has been signed by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technology, the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Technologists, the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, Black Physicians of Canada, among other stakeholders.

The petition highlights the number of longstanding neglected health workforce planning issues that predate the pandemic, and the lack of even basic information governments in Canada currently have about the health workforce.

“We lack data about their scope of work, about the diversity of the workforce, about the Indigenous or racial identity and language of service. We don’t know how different health workforce teams work together or how can they be recruited, trained and retained where they are most needed,” said Dr. Ivy Bourgeault, Professor at the University of Ottawa and the lead of the Canadian Health Workforce Network.

“In some critical sectors, such as home care, long-term care and mental health care, we don’t even know how many healthcare workers there are,” she adds.

Safe, high quality care for patients is tied to safe, high quality work for health workers.

Pre-pandemic, the health workforce was overstretched and there was growing concern about accessing timely care close to home. The pandemic has caused critical staffing shortages – a direct result of inadequate planning.  This has contributed to an enormous mental health burden on health workers.

“We risk unprecedented attrition from the health workforce,” says Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “This will inevitably lead to reductions in access to safe, high quality care and increased wait times for patients.”

Until barriers to effective health workforce planning are addressed through better health workforce data, Canada can expect inadequate planning for population needs now and into the future, inefficient deployment of health workers, persistent maldistribution of services, and a perpetuation of current inequities.

“Without essential improvements to health workforce data, we will continue to make decisions in the dark with incomplete, misleading and non-standardized information that is disconnected from the real-world experience of those at the point of care,” says Arthur Sweetman, Professor of Economics, McMaster University.

The signatories call on the federal government to play a stronger leadership role in helping address this critical health workforce data gap.

Read the Petition and Fact Sheet

For media interviews, contact:
Dr. Ivy Lynn Bourgeault 

More about CHWN: the Canadian Health Workforce Network is a knowledge exchange network of researchers, decision-makers and other knowledge users interested in health workforce planning, policy and management. It is a member of the International Health Workforce Collaborative and the WHO Global Health Workforce Network.

Call to Action