During the November meeting of the Canadian Health Professional Secretariat, our colleagues in British Columbia let us know that they are seeing increasing numbers of health professionals migrate there from Ontario.
It’s not surprising given austerity appears to be biting very hard here – and its not just in the hospital sector.
We’ve noticed that despite incredible organizing success, our overall health care membership has not grown within the last six months. This confirms the view from BC that our health care professionals and skilled support are departing to where the jobs are.
There have been numerous high profile cases where hospitals have unloaded significant numbers of staff – we reported earlier this year that about 290 full-time equivalent jobs were leaving The Ottawa Hospital. Similarly, The Scarborough Hospital has been in the spotlight for shedding jobs and services. Even smaller centers, such as the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital has lost significant employment for health professionals and support staff.
These job losses are not just in general hospitals. Ontario Shores recently revealed that it was changing its mix and in the process losing a significant number of front line mental health workers.
Today we’re in Kingston talking about job losses at one of the community providers that we’re told health care services are supposed to be migrating to.
Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addiction Services recently shed three front line jobs for two additional managers. This comes at a time when Frontenac is expanding residential facilities and demand is high. Frontenac presently has about 1200 clients, some of which need intensive daily care.
Staff at Frontenac could be on strike as early as Wednesday over increasing workload and near stagnant wages. Health care professionals and skilled support workers have had enough.
Similarly, we have to wonder who will want to work in home care support in Grey Bruce counties when we learned that PSWs there also face significant austerity. Some of these part-time workers are having to turn to charities to make ends meet for their own families. The top wage there is $14.25 an hour. Most earn less than that. They too could be on strike as early as next week.
HealthForce Ontario (HFO) was formed to make sure this province had the “right number and mix of qualified healthcare providers now and in the future.”
HFO has been extraordinarily quiet recently. The last newsletter posted on their website is from more than a year ago. They stopped collecting and posting workforce data on their website in 2010. To find such data you have to now visit the websites of 19 different professional colleges.
HFO did recently complete a recruitment tour, the last stop in Sudbury on November 14th. However, that tour is intended to fill jobs in more remote corners of the province.
Ontario’s population continues to both grow and age.
By losing so many jobs now and encouraging cuts to real wages, the province will surely face significant shortages of health care professionals in the very near future.
The College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario, for example, notes this year that 34 per cent of MLTs are between the ages of 51-60. As these workers retire, who will be there to replace them? That’s more than a third who will likely be gone within a decade.
Those migrating to BC are likely to be younger and more mobile. That’s our future walking out the door. Those are the skilled workers we need to replace our aging health care workforce.
When the austerity stops, Ontario could find itself in a very costly position as it once again tries to recruit what it needs. In the interim, it could mean more frustration for Ontarians seeking health care.