RNAO’s continuing media profile: The November 2021 report

This month, RNAO spoke to the media about many timely issues, including the expanded booster dose eligibility, the Ontario government’s fall economic statement and most prominently, our call to the premier to immediately #RepealBill124. Our virtual Fall Tour with members also generated lots of media coverage.

Although we’ve made progress in navigating out of this pandemic, it’s far from over. On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID-19 variant, named Omicron, which was identified by scientists in South Africa. On Nov. 28, Ontario confirmed that there were two cases of the Omicron variant in Ontario, and that number, according to the last report, has increased to 12. While this variant is still new and we wait to learn about the severity of illness it causes, it does have has higher transmissibility. It is imperative we follow public health measures, and we don’t loosen up restrictions any further – including not doing away with vaccine certificates.  Masking and effective ventilation must remain top priority given that COVID-19 is airborne.    

On Dec. 2, the province announced it is expanding the eligibility for the COVID-19 booster dose. Starting Dec. 13, Ontarians aged 50 and older can schedule their booster shot appointment through the government’s online booking system, as long as it’s been 168 days since their second dose. I told CityNews’s The Sam Laprade Show (Dec. 2) that expanding the eligibility for booster shots is “an excellent idea because we have sufficient vaccines but we also need to push the federal government for vaccine equity globally.” If you are eligible for your COVID-19 booster, please book your appointment. Read RNAO’s response to the announcement.

On Nov. 19, Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages five to 11. Vaccination is the key to getting through this pandemic and I am pleased that we are now able to protect our children. I told CHCH News’s Inside the Story (Nov. 24) that “because we need to do it at a fast speed, all hands-on-deck should be the approach.” For those of you with children in this age range, I encourage you to get them vaccinated as soon as possible.

Bill 124 continues to be a major issue impacting our nursing workforce, and it’s a shame Premier Ford has yet to repeal it. Many nurses are leaving the workforce after facing chronic understaffing made worse by this pandemic combined with this legislation, which caps salary increases at one per cent (well below inflation). This bill is a slap in the face to nurses across Ontario and must be repealed immediately. On Nov. 14, we joined Nursewithsign416 in Toronto to rally against the bill. At the rally, we announced our 30-day countdown for the premier to repeal Bill 124. The deadline is Dec. 14; the clock is ticking, premier.

RNAO also issued a public service announcement to highlight how losing nurses because of this legislation will negatively impact our health-care system. On Nov. 15, we told Zoomer Radio that “Bill 124 is driving nurses away from Ontario by the hundreds, if not thousands.” Nurses are integral to our health system and must be compensated fairly. In Press Progress (Nov. 18), we said “since this premier took over, nurses have not seen any pay increase, just a decrease but we’ve seen workloads increased double and in some cases triple.”

On Nov. 29, RNAO sent an open letter to the premier to share our grave concern for the state of nursing in the province. “Nursing is the central pillar of a well-functioning health system. Enduring the hardships of a 22-month pandemic has turned an existing shortage – thanks to Bill 124 – into an RN workforce crisis.” Nurses aren’t heroes; we are individuals who deserve dignity and respect. If you haven’t already, please sign and share our Action Alert to demand Premier Ford immediately repeal this legislation, and retweet RNAO’s tweets with the daily countdown using #RepealBill124.

RNAO held its annual Fall Tour virtually from Nov. 15-19. RNAO president Morgan Hoffarth and I had the opportunity to speak with RNs, NPs and nursing students from various communities. These visits allow us to connect with RNAO members and shape the association’s next steps in demanding policy changes with government. Many of our members spoke out about their concerns with Bill 124 and the impact of working short-staffed. In Brampton Guardian on Nov. 19, I called the staffing shortages a “calamity” and said the health system  is “on the verge of collapsing completely.” In Sarnia Observer (Nov. 18), our president said “(RNAO has) a lot of members and when we all speak out in a focused way, I really, truly believe we have the power to make a significant difference for nursing and health in Ontario.” I want to thank the chapters that hosted these visits and all of the members who attended. I join Morgan in cheering our strong voice – so let’s keep raising it until we are heard.

On Nov. 4, the province released its fall economic statement, which promised to allocate funding to hire 225 nurse practitioners (NP) over three years, beginning with 75 positions in 2022-23. RNAO issued a media release the same day welcoming the “government’s plans to add NPs, and to upskill registered nurses (RN) and registered practical nurses (RPN) to begin the task of building up Ontario’s nursing workforce.” However, more action is needed to address the nursing human resources crisis – and key to that goal is to #RepealBill124. In Queen’s Park Briefing (Nov. 4), I said that this new funding is a good start but that I hope the government will provide 100 NPs per year in long-term care. Read RNAO’s full response to the government’s economic outlook.

This month, RNAO’s media outreach resulted in 143 media hits. We will continue to speak out on important issues and push for government to take action where needed. Visit our COVID-19 press room to stay updated with our media interviews and activities.