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“It’s corrosive. They’re driving up prices: Agency staffing is costing hospitals, LTC homes, critics say

Staffing agencies have provided temporary staff to hospitals for years to fill vacancies, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is getting worse.

Staffing agencies have been providing temporary staff to hospitals for years to cover vacancies. But the pandemic has increased reliance on agencies to provide nurses and other workers to cover vacancies will add up to higher costs and has lured workers away from their jobs, say nurses' unions.
Recruitment agencies have spent years trying to fill vacancies. has provided temporary staff to hospitals. But the pandemic has increased reliance on agencies to provide nurses and other workers to fill vacancies, increasing costs and keeping workers out of work, the nurses union said. Photo Credit: CARLOS OSORIO /REUTERS

WORKFORCE GAP IN ONTARIO HOSPITALS AND NURSING FACILITIES are filled by nurses and others. A worker hired from an agency at a cost that is more than double his hourly wage earned by staff.

The problem has been bubbling under the surface, especially in the Toronto area and northern Ontario, but it is at its peak across the province as Ontario grapples with the health staff crisis. standing in the front line.

“If I make $112 an hour and you make $45, how do you expect to get over that?” Representing over 68,000 registered nurses and other health professionals Kathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association, said:

Recruitment agencies have provided temporary staff to hospitals for years to fill vacancies. But the COVID-19 pandemic has increased reliance on agencies to provide nurses and other workers to fill vacancies, driving up costs and keeping workers out of work, nurses unions say. says.

"I spoke with a nurse who was offered $112 an hour to work in the same ICU," she said.

Nathalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said a network of more than 400 grassroots community organizations had been opposing staffing government agencies for years, and now outright bans. said he was asking to

"It's corrosive. They're raising prices," she said.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions has asked the Canadian Comptroller General to conduct an audit of the private companies contracted to fill nursing positions, along with their provincial counterparts. For the past 5 years.

"Where does the public money go? There is a complete lack of transparency about what they are paying agency nurses and how much they are paying agencies," he said. said Linda Cyrus, president of the federation, which has nearly 200,000 members.

One of her problems is that there is little public information about how much money is spent on agency staff, most of which is anecdotal. That's it.

In a Twitter video, Dr. Michael Warner, his ICU physician at Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital, said that before the COVID outbreak, the institution was in the hospital, where he was in hospital every hour. said they were charging $65. They are now charging $110 an hour, he said.

``I think this is exploitative and predatory. will be,' he said.

Nurses don't keep everything. But even after factoring in other factors such as vacation pay and pensions, the amount they keep is much higher than union wages, Warner said.

Last year, the agency was charging twice her staff income. Lisa Levin, CEO of her AdvantAge Ontario, which represents more than 200 municipal and nonprofit housing, says the situation is now more than that.

Some LTC Homes have no choice but to use money intended for other purposes to pay agency labor costs, she said.

“In the early days of COVID, agencies helped families a lot. After the first few waves, they seem to have increased their prices. The problem is with the entire healthcare system," Levin said.

"Agencies are gouging out staff, approaching them, and offering higher salaries. Our homes are much harder to find."

Hoy aims to publish figures soon that will provide insight into the extent of this problem. Hospitals using agency staff must pay a penalty to ONA. Some checks, she said, are four times her past. ONA is collecting information on a hospital-by-hospital basis and plans to release it within the next month.

Agency nurses help in times of crisis but should only be used as a short-term stopgap, says university gender, diversity and professional research committee Chief Ivy Bourgeault said. Ottawa.

"If you work right next to someone else and they earn more than you, that's a built-in pay gap. It provokes resentment," said Burjot. . “It may solve immediate staffing problems, but it creates long-term resentment in the system.”

Solutions to get employees back to work include: improvement, work culture improvement, and support from supervisors, managers, and management. For example, nurses face high levels of workplace violence, she said.

"We all thought it was a matter of salary," said Cyrus. "But it's about flexibility and getting away from hospital politics. Agency nurses are not employees. They do their job, wash their hands, and leave."

Everyone is focused on hiring, but the focus on retention is more important, says Bourgeault.

"We can't hire people in a bleeding system. Can't we pay the nurses there more and provide incentives for those who leave?"

} Nurses' unions and others argue that Bill 124, which limits salary increases to 1% per year for three years, must be repealed. They also argue that nurses should be paid on a par with police officers.

On the one hand, we need a mobile worker cadre. Being part of that mobile her workers should be incentivized, she said, Bourgeault.

We also need to get everyone together at a table to discuss the human resources crisis, she said. Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, recently convened stakeholder think tanks, she said. It also means finding the incentives needed to bring nurses back.

I need to learn what it takes to put them back together.

Closing the staffing gap with agency workers appears to be less done in Ottawa than in the rest of Ontario.

Queensway She said Carlton Hospital, CHEO, and Montfort Hospital do not employ agency nurses. Her four municipal nursing homes in Ottawa also do not employ temporary nurses or her PSW.

An Ottawa Hospital spokesperson has used a small amount of time from the Ottawa community Her Health Her Registry for the past five years as part of a long-standing agreement to unload ambulances in the emergency department. said it was. But other than this, the hospital didn't set aside nursing hours for the agency.

Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital closed her ER at her Perth site for about three weeks this summer. Several agency nurses have been hired, said Dr Alan Drummond, a hospital emergency room physician and co-chair of public relations for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

Drummond was initially unsatisfied with the solution, but the nurses got along well, he said.

"Will our emergency room be open without them? Probably not.

Rachel Muir, Head of the Ontario Nurses Association Unit at the Hospital believes it is inevitable in Ottawa to employ agency nurses:

"We are very short of nurses and there are so many vacancies that patients There are not enough nurses to safely provide the care they deserve, and there is considerable reluctance to close beds or scale back the services currently being provided," she said. I was. she said.

Staffy, a platform that connects healthcare providers with pre-vet workers , said Nicole McCallum, spokeswoman for Staffy, said the platform was filling up at the last minute. - fill shifts on weekends, holidays, nights, etc.

The platform was originally developed to connect skilled workers with , LTC Home, and others pivoted to support healthcare. organization responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, McCallum said in her statement. 

Surge pricing is not part of the business model. This model is transparent and the employee receives her 100% of the listing fee. Clients are charged a negotiated service fee based on payment and contract terms," ​​she said.

"As our healthcare system expands, it's important to look to innovation to fill the gaps." 145} Staffy Efficiently and effectively optimized through the platform Healthcare workers are across multiple hospitals and other organizations Close staffing gaps{.by private agencies.

"Can you tell private companies whether they should pay this to their employees or pay that to them? I can't. '' he said.

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