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Candidates Q and A: The healthcare labour shortage

Candidates from the four major parties were asked to respond to questions about key issues in the upcoming provincial election
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GuelphToday asked the candidates running for the four major parties in Guelph a series of questions about the upcoming election. Their answers will run nightly over the next two weeks. Responses were limited to 250 words. 

Tonight's question: 'Ontario is experiencing a labour shortage in healthcare. What would you do if elected?'

Raechelle Devereaux, Liberal:

One thing I know, as a health care CEO who employs more than 160 heath care professionals, is that healthcare workers feel most valued when they are recognized and compensated for their efforts. Often, this happens through equitable wages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were up against the aggressive Bill 124, which capped our most valued health care workers from earning more income. 

I’m proud to be a part of a party that will repeal Bill 124. A Liberal government will also raise wages of PSWs to $25/ hour, and relieve student debt for current PSWs. We would hire 3,000 more mental health and addiction workers – 1,000 of them focused on children and youth. And we would hire 100,000 new health care professionals to guarantee access to primary care within 24 hours. These are the solutions that will help our province strengthen our health care system – by ensuring health care professionals receive fair compensation and feel recognized for the important work they do. 

We also know that many Ontario hospitals, including Guelph’s, are in need of repair, expansion or replacement.  I am proud that the Ontario Liberals have expressly highlighted Guelph General Hospital’s redevelopment in our platform, recognizing the growing population and health needs of our community.  

James Parr, NDP: 

Right off the bat, I pledge to work towards repealing Bill 124. It is unacceptable that we called our healthcare workers essential and heroes for the last two years and then repaid them by stagnating their wages. 

I also support the NDP’s plant to hire at least 10,000 PSWs and 30,000 nurses across the health sector, and implement a $5/hr pay bump for PSWs and ensuring they are full-time employees with benefits. 

I also support expediting the recognition of nursing credentials of 15,000 internationally trained nurses. 

Mike Schreiner, Green Party: 

I’ve spoken to so many front line healthcare workers here in Guelph who are burnt out, and on the verge of quitting. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking, especially after all that they have given us over the course of this pandemic. The staffing shortage is putting tremendous pressure on the system and is putting patients at risk.

It’s being driven by harsh working conditions and low pay. It’s unacceptable but fixable.

A real plan to address the healthcare shortage includes immediately repealing Bill 124 to give healthcare workers the raise they deserve. I have been loud and vocal in calling for the repeal of Bill 124 and I will continue to do so. The Ontario Greens would also:

● Establish a nurse-led task force to make recommendations on matters related to the recruitment, retention and safety of nurses.
● Increase nursing program enrollments by 10% every year for 7 years and the number of trained nurse practitioners by 50% by 2030 to enable us to meet our target of at least 30,000 additional nurses.
● Allow all healthcare workers to bargain collectively for fair wages. Until then, provide a minimum hourly wage of $35 to registered practical nurses and $25 to personal support workers.
● Support certification upgrades for healthcare workers through expanded bridging programs at publicly funded post-secondary institutions.
● Fast-track credential approvals for 15,000 international healthcare workers, including nurses and personal support workers.
● Expand the roles and scope of nurse practitioners as primary health care providers, especially in areas that lack primary care options.

Peter McSherry, Progressive Conservative: No response.