With one in two nurses thinking of quitting their job, Canada’s health-care system is currently in a crisis, says Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses union.
“It’s almost like health employers don’t care or don’t know what to do,” she said during The Roy Green Show. “We are very concerned as health-care workers. What we’re talking now is the survival of our system.”
Across the nation, five million Canadians do not have a primary health-care provider, a key issue in the country, according to Silas.
“We need primary health care. That is key because we as individuals have to take care of ourselves to make sure we don’t go in the hospital,” she said.
Canada’s premiers will be meeting in Victoria, B.C. at the Fairmont Empress on July 11 and 12 to discuss the health-care situation as part of one of the twice-annual meeting the Council of the Federation. The Council is comprised of the provincial and territorial premiers.
“The problems Canadians experienced in accessing health-care services during the pandemic have intensified strains in our health systems that will continue unless the federal government significantly increases its share of the costs of health care,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan, in a July 7 press release announcing the meeting.
“Canadians must have the confidence that their health-care systems will provide the services they need. There can be no further delay in having this vital conversation with the federal government.”
For Silas, who will be in attendance at the Victoria meeting, she plans to drive home that one province or territory will not be able to fix the system alone.
“We’re in a crisis right now. We’re going to be telling them we’re with you but we’re also going to be telling them there won’t be one province or territory who can fix this mess by themselves,” she said.
“They hear it from more than nurses, more than doctors. They hear it every time they walk down the street. They know their neighbour didn’t get their hip surgery or their cancer treatment is being delayed That’s how you change political mind, when everyone is on the same page.”
“We really have to work together and get the federal government at the table. It’s nonsense that we haven’t had a discussion with the federal government on all of this yet,” Silas added.
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Premiers at the gathering need to prioritize the recruitment and retention of health care professionals in the country, and not just in the short-term, according to Dr. Atul Kapur, spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.
“We’ve been sounding the alarm about shortages of physicians and nurses for quite some time,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press.
Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows admitted patients across Canada waited 38.3 hours in emergency rooms in 2019-2020, up from 29.3 hours five years earlier. The total number of visits spiked to nearly 1.6 million during that time, up from just over 1.1 million.
The figures apply to 90 per cent of patients, and Kapur said 10 per cent waited even longer.
Darrell Bricker, president and CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs says health care is still the number one issue in Canada.
“What people are really saying when they put health care at the apex of the issues facing the country is that they’re really uncertain about the future of the system,” Bricker told The Roy Green Show.
“They feel like the system is under strain right now.”
— With files from the Canadian Press