Canada’s nurses are applauding today’s announcement of an additional $2 billion in health care funding. Just days after the announcement of a Liberal-NDP agreement, nurses can already see a palpable shift in priorities and an earnest desire to safeguard Canada’s health care system.
“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve often spoken about the patients who were directly affected by COVID-19, but there are hundreds of thousands more who have had to grapple with delayed care,” explained Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “In the coming years, we need to aggressively invest in health care to repair that damage.”
The current backlog of surgeries and medical procedures is indicative of a health care system that was already operating at capacity when COVID-19 hit. Throughout the pandemic, these procedures have taken the backseat to urgent care.
The backlog includes an estimated 700,000 surgeries and other medical procedures. Often, these are referred to as “elective surgeries,” but a more accurate descriptor is “non-urgent surgeries.” However, to those waiting for live-changing procedures such as knee joint replacements, cataract surgeries, and gender affirmative surgeries, there is no understating their importance and personal urgency.
According to Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, today’s announcement marks an important first step towards repairing the damage done by COVID-19 and in protecting Canada’s universal health care system. During a meeting with Minister’s Duclos’ office yesterday, Silas emphasized the importance of reversing Canada’s nursing shortage, noting that without health care workers, a bed is just a bed.
“Canadians deserve a robust, accessible and responsive health care system,” said Silas. “Meanwhile, nurses deserve safe, healthy and functional working conditions that allow them to provide the best level of care.”
The government’s announcement was released just days after a Liberal-NDP agreement promised to deliver national pharmacare, improve long-term care and follow through on a number of other progressive policies. More than anything, nurses are desperately hoping to see significant targeted funding aimed reversing the decades-long nursing shortage. The CFNU is calling for increased attention on retention and recruitment, as well as the creation of a dedicated coordinating body to address critical health workforce data gaps.
“After two years of dealing with this pandemic and decades of powering through an unrelenting nursing shortage, nurses are exhausted and increasingly calling it quits,” said Silas.
“We urgently need to reverse this tide. Our health care system simply can’t function without health care workers.