Save our hospitalsThree unions negotiating with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to resolve the ongoing hospital staffing crisis, job safety concerns and pandemic-related mental health supports, today launched a province-wide television advertising blitz to fix the mess and save hospital care in Ontario.

“Ontario hospitals must share responsibility for what is a mass exodus of hospital staff. Job vacancies have gone from 3,635 in 2015 to 8,855 in 2019 and to 16,685 in 2021 - an 88 per cent increase since 2019 alone and a 359 per cent increase since 2015,” said Michael Hurley, President of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE). “Staff leave because of undoable workloads, unsafe conditions, and low wages. The hospitals have the power to address these concerns, but they have steadfastly refused to do that. It’s time for the hospitals to seriously reconsider how they treat their employees.”

CUPE, SEIU Healthcare, and Unifor, representing 95,000 registered practical nurses, personal support workers, cleaners, administrative and others on the front-lines at hospitals across Ontario, have focused contract negotiations with the OHA on bargaining a better outcome for patients, staff, and care.

Stabilizing patient care and staffing by increasing the number of full-time jobs and to restrict the usage and high cost of agency and gig-work is a priority for the unions. And with an ongoing pandemic, the unions are demanding all hospitals adopt the precautionary principle approach to better protect staff and patients from COVID-19 variants.

“We’re fighting to save our hospitals and save our members from unsafe and unfair working conditions. Staff deserve better from the Ontario Hospital Association after two years of a crushing pandemic. Hospital services are at risk and the public need to be aware of what’s at stake. It’s time the OHA agree to a better outcome for the care we all need,” said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare.

Surveys tell us that nearly one-third of registered practical nurses (RPNs) are considering leaving the profession. Poor working conditions are exacerbating the health human resource crisis and as hospitals hemorrhage staff, people will continue to wait longer for critical care.

Violence continues to be out of control within the walls of our hospitals. 86 per cent of hospital staff have experienced verbal harassment, 65 per cent have experienced physical assault, and 25 per cent have experienced sexual assault.

Mental and psychological support is also necessary after two traumatizing years of pandemic work. 93 per cent of staff report mental and physical exhaustion, 91 per cent report higher levels of stress, and 82 per cent report back pain as a result of their hospital work.

“Our hospital members are those that Ontarians turn to when we are most in need of care. t’s time they had a collective agreement that treats them with the respect they deserve and recognizes the vital role they play in hospitals. The OHA must start caring for hospital workers as much as those workers care for Ontarians”, said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President of Unifor.

CUPE and SEIU Healthcare will continue bargaining jointly with the OHA with mediation dates set in May. Unifor continues to bargain with many hospitals and have solidified bargaining dates with the OHA in June.

Follow the campaign with the hashtag #SaveHospitalCare