‘It’s going to bankrupt health care’: Spending on temp agency nurses up more than 550% since pre-pandemic at one Toronto hospital network
By now we all know that the coronavirus pandemic will force hospitals and health care systems to change the way they respond during the crisis. After the crisis has passed, it will be even more difficult to retrain nurses and other staff on the fly since there will be no shortage of them. And that means the hospital or health system’s finances are going to be on the line.
Hospitals have never been shy about spending money they don’t have. They have been charging patients ever since the day medical schools began taking money every year for tuition, and more recently they’ve been using a combination of funds from their operating budgets and health care fees to cover staff training.
But this year, hospitals will be facing an additional problem – an additional layer of expenses created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ontario government decided early on in the crisis that it would need approximately 500 temporary nurses to staff its publicly funded health care systems, like the University Health Network and Toronto Paramedic Services. This would be a huge problem for the health care systems already facing huge staff shortages. But there was only one problem: the money to cover the cost of the nurses had been appropriated months earlier.
“We do our best, but the fact is we only have the resources to pay people for a very short period of time,” said Yves Francoeur, president of the University Health Network. “We need to find the money.”
For many health systems in Ontario, these funds are already allocated for something else: salaries for health care workers.
“We are in the first few months of a very difficult time, and we are very grateful for the support from our community. Our nurses and our doctors and all the support staff are truly angels in disguise,” said Dr. Karen Hirsch, president and CEO of Toronto Paramedic Services.
The only way to get the money quickly is to raise wages for the temporary workers, and that has led to