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BEHIND THE SCENES: Poll reveals potential departure of nearly 200 North Bay RPNs

BayToday reporter Chris Dawson takes us behind the scenes

Kim Hamilton, a registered practical nurse at Nipissing Manor in North Bay, is among a group of approximately 200 RPNs in the area contemplating leaving their jobs. Expressing her frustration, Hamilton highlighted the undervaluation of RPNs in the healthcare system. Despite her own concerns, she remains dedicated to her residents and colleagues, recognizing the importance of being present for them. Hamilton's sentiments were shared during a media conference held outside the North Bay Regional Health Centre last week, where she expressed her worries about the impact of government decisions on the nursing profession, particularly on younger individuals entering the field.

The media event was organized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) ahead of Nursing Week, scheduled from May 8 to 14. CUPE has put forth several demands, including a wage increase of up to $35 per hour for RPNs and a commitment from the provincial government to alleviate the strain on the current workforce by hiring additional RPNs. Sharon Richer, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE), also attended the event and emphasized the need for stronger advocacy from Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli to support RPNs in his constituency and throughout the province. Richer noted that their polls revealed 60 per cent of nurses were either contemplating leaving or had already left the profession, indicating a potential mass exodus of 196 RPNs from the North Bay Regional Hospital alone.

In response to the CUPE event, Vic Fedeli highlighted the progress made since the government took office in 2018. He pointed out that over 60,000 new nurses and nearly 8,000 new doctors have registered to work in Ontario during this time. Acknowledging the need for further action, Fedeli discussed the government's recent initiatives, such as the "Your Health" program, which aims to break down barriers for internationally educated healthcare workers and provide financial support for nurses seeking to enhance their skills. He also highlighted the allocation of $280 million from the 2023-24 budget to strengthen the healthcare workforce through expanded training opportunities and nursing education programs.

Video summary:

Residents across the province are celebrating Nurses Week from May 8th to the 14th, many of whom are using the opportunity to advocate for better wages and working conditions. In North Bay, a group of approximately 200 registered practical nurses (RPNs) gathered at a media conference outside the Regional Health Centre to address their concerns. They expressed their frustrations regarding job-related issues and threatened to quit if their demands were not met by the provincial government. The event was attended by Chris Dawson from BayToday, who discussed the situation and the emotions involved.

According to Dawson, the issue of RPNs considering leaving their jobs is not limited to North Bay alone but is a provincial problem. Many are pointing fingers at the event and urging Vic Fedeli, the MPP for Nipissing, to support the RPNs since he has close ties to the Ford government. The main concerns raised by the RPNs are the need for more nurses to alleviate staffing shortages and an increase in wages to $35 per hour. The stress of working during the pandemic, along with understaffing and increased workloads, has added to their frustration. The RPNs are worried about the future of the nursing profession and the impact on patient care.

The Ontario government has allocated a $280 million investment in the healthcare workforce as part of the provincial budget. Measures have been taken to provide incentives for nurses to pursue further education and increase staffing levels. However, during the press event, Vic Fedeli did not directly address the issue of increasing wages. The focus seemed to be on overall funding and efforts to improve the healthcare system. Dawson says the timeline for potential job actions or strikes was not specified, but if the RPNs were to leave their positions, it would have a significant impact on nursing homes and hospitals in North Bay.