Ontario will need over 33,000 nurses, 50,000 personal support workers by 2032

Experts criticize government's decision not to provide data to earlier public information request

Ontario will need over 33,000 nurses, 50,000 personal support workers by 2032

Ontario is facing massive shortages in nurse and personal worker (PSW) counts, and it could be worse in the coming years, according to a recent report.

In 2022, Ontario needed 6,000 more nurses across all healthcare sectors, reported The Canadian Press (CP), citing data from the government.

The nurse shortage number rose to 10,110 in 2023, and it is expected to be at 13,200 this year.

The province is expected to need 20,700 additional nurses by 2027, and 33,200 by 2032.

Also, Ontario needed 24,100 more PSWs in 2022 and 30,900 more in 2023. That number is expected to rise to 37,700 this year, to 48,977 in 2027, and to 50,853 in 2032.

The healthcare staffing shortages are “devastating,” said Liberal health critic Adil Shamji, according to CP's report published on City News.

Recently, Saskatchewan announced it is investing $51.2 million for 2024-2025 to support new and ongoing expansion of health care training across the province.

A matter of ‘increasing wages’, ‘improving working conditions’

CP requested a copy of the Long-Term Care transition binder after Stan Cho was named minister in September. The binder is a document prepared to give new ministers important information. The publication was granted access to the document in February.

However, in 2022, Global News requested information on health human resources from the Ministry of Health’s transition binder. 

One page from the document titled “Health Workforce Challenge by Numbers” they received showed some overall information about the recruitment and retention challenges for nurses and PSWs in particular.

However, the actual numbers showing estimated shortages in 2022, 2023, 2024, 2027 and 2032 were all redacted, according to The Canadian Press.

When Global News appealed that to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the government argued that releasing that information would harm the province’s financial and economic interests because unions would use the numbers to argue for higher wages, reported CP.

That’s the obvious move, said Erin Ariss, Ontario Nurses’ Association president, in the report.

“It goes to a basic economic principle of supply and demand, and we’ve been saying all along that there are not enough nurses to staff the system that we have,” she said.

“Health care is in a crisis, but there are solutions to this, and part of the solution would be telling the public exactly what is happening in all sectors of health care and not trying to avoid accountability.”

Sharleen Stewart, the president of SEIU Healthcare, – reacting to the rejection of Global News’s request – suggested that the provincial government, it seems, is not looking to solve the problem.

“It’s the government that has to have the will to address it,” she said. 

“When they’re hiding it so that we don’t solve the problem by increasing wages and improving the conditions of work and conditions of care in the workplace, then they’re obviously not serious about solving this problem for seniors of our province.”

In March, two provincial governments were criticized for the way they are spending funding for healthcare workers.

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