The unions representing local hospital workers and paramedics are calling on the province to do more to support workers and Ontario’s beleaguered health-care system.
This comes as public health officials are warning that the flu season is getting an early start in eastern Ontario.
“Yes, an exhausted workforce after working two-plus years of the pandemic, but also Bill 124, which has limited wages to one per cent per year for the next three years, you know, it has a real demoralizing effect on the workforce,” said Dave Vench, with the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
Vench represents hospital workers in the region for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
He said the provincial government needs to hire more hospital staff and paramedics and do more to retain existing staff.
Shauna Dunn, the head of the paramedics union in Frontenac County, says the lack of staffing and funding, along with increased call volumes, is impacting patient care.
“Since 2021 that increase just in the first six months of this year has increased almost 12 per cent so we’re seeing a significant increase in the demand for paramedic services,” said Dunn, the president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 462.
With restrictions like masking all but gone, respiratory illnesses like the flu are back and this year, they’re starting early.
“As of last week we had our first cases of influenza in the region,” said Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health official Brian Larkin.
That has public health officials calling on residents to get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19.
“Certainly, there is an individual benefit to getting vaccinated, but getting vaccinated also helps protect those who are more vulnerable in the community from severe illness and it helps reduce the potential impact on our health-care system and emergency departments,” added Larkin.
The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions is calling on the provincial government to hire 128 hospital workers immediately and 1,000 over the next year at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre but with flu season here already, it may be a long winter for health-care workers.