It is our duty to support the nurses who work in long-term care

My name is Jane McDonald. I was once a Registered Nurses’ Association (RN) member, giving support to medically fragile patients and their families. I am very familiar with the work of our workers – and with the faith and love of those we support.

But last Friday, I learned the Ministry of Health no longer recognizes registered nurses as the on-call staff for long-term care residences, leaving families to make crucial decisions such as food access and whether certain people can return home with medication with or without the help of home care.

Our employers have denied nurses and registered dietitians the right to treat or monitor patients on the patients’ behalf – for a fee – even though they have been at their places of employment for years. And, this despite the fact that their services, and their expertise, are the most useful for patients, even the most vulnerable ones. This diminishes the value of workers to their employers.

Yet I’m hopeful that things will change. We still have a few weeks left in the current parliamentary session, and the Governor General can issue a notice of motion to dismiss the entire Cabinet. But in a previous year, both the NDP and the Liberals presented their reports on long-term care. This is my call for action.

These governments promised to address the crisis in our health-care system. I’m heartened that last year’s report by the Ontario Ombudsman found systemic failings in the funding and delivery of care for long-term care residents.

We know what needs to be done: provide greater resources for our vulnerable residents; dismantle the austerity projects of a decade ago, which have decimated long-term care services; expand support systems and opportunities for families and community-based teams; provide more and better care to vulnerable people.

But the public sector unions have asked the government to pay health-care professionals as they were considered valued community assets. Our request has been ignored. The government has said no.

Therefore, our community must stand together – with the authority we have as our families, as our neighbours, as members of the community and as citizens. We must support registered nurses and registered dietitians and the men and women who perform their essential roles.

We must insist that our government stands on the right side of history.

Jane McDonald is a registered nurse and the president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA).

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