Nurses in Ontario’s hospitals, social care facilities and other settings are doing crucial work. Even so, they aren’t being paid enough. Ontario nurses spend an average of 48 hours of their seven-day work week on their patients, even though they get three hours off each day and work little overtime. Nurse fatigue can lead to poor patient care, putting patients at risk of dying. Lacking support from their union, the nurses are suffering financially, with some resorting to credit cards and student loans to pay for housing and other essential needs.
The nurses’ plight is a symptom of a larger one: Ontario’s nurses are highly overworked and underpaid relative to their peers elsewhere.
The profession is facing unprecedented demand. A three-year government review of the country’s aging population found that almost one in three Ontarians will become a senior citizen in the next 15 years, more than double the rate of Canada’s average. Two in three Ontarians live in a county with a median age over 50. Yet the number of doctors and nurses in Canada is falling – which suggests that we’re putting our own people at risk. A 2016 report from CIHI, the federal government’s public health statistics agency, found that Canadians are living longer, but they’re also living sicker, with more disability, chronic pain and premature death.