Some Stoned and Possibly Ill-Advised Thoughts on the Ontario Budget

My semi-annual quasi-political post, written on Tylenol 3s, in case you didn’t know it.

The provincial budget was brought down yesterday — for my American readers, means the provincial government’s fiscal plan for the coming year — and there’s some almost good news for hospitals and some bad news for nurses. The semi-good news: there’s going to be a 1.5% funding hike for hospitals across the province, instead of the 0% funding increase the government had mooted. The bad: a pay freeze for all in the public and near-public service, which would, ahem, include nurses and other health care professionals. In practical terms, the province has said it will honour increases in current contracts — RNs are actually due for an increase on 1 April — and the province-wide contract for hospital nurses expires in March 2011, meaning the impact won’t be felt until negotiations between the Ontario Nurses Association and the Ontario Hospital Association are completed sometime next year.

As I’ve noted before salaries of nurses (and other HCPs) are often targeted as “excessive” — the (unstated) reasoning being that somehow nurses’ salaries aren’t commensurate with their skill level — we’re just nurses, after all. Tim Hudak, the Tory party leader, has gone so far to suggest that opening the contracts and slashing our salaries is the prudent route to fiscal responsibility. (No mention, of course, that his salary be cut, either — or the unmitigated disaster the Tories inflicted on the health care system the last time they had their incompetent hands on it.)

I should say that RNs have good salaries: with a small amount of overtime, I topped out over 88k last year, with full benefits and four weeks vacation. Well paid, yes, but most RNs I know would say we’re not nearly paid what we’re worth, given what we’re responsible for and what we’re required to know to provide safe and competent care. If you have any doubt, do you want your IV started by me or by the porter?

There is, to be a sure, a lot of waste and room for new efficiencies. Two quick thoughts — no doubt more would come, except I’m fairly whacked on Tylenol 3s:

1. Managerial positions have proliferated like bacteria in a warm, moist environment in most Ontario hospitals, with little discernible improvement, to my eyes anyway, in patient care or outcomes.

2. Hospitals waste literally millions of dollars every year in consultants’ fees, again to no apparent effect — I would like to see published, sometime, the aggregate sum spent on consultants in province’s hospitals.

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Ankle Update: able to put a little weight — just a little, mind — on my foot this morning. Biggest problem: getting up in the night to pee and falling over the dog, crutches and all.

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  1. #1 by @rdjfraser on Friday 26 March 2010 - 1815

    Nursing students, well at least grad students are feeling it too. I definitely wasn’t a fan of some cuts, which has left me at the short end of a stick. Oh well. As I mentioned on your about section, glad to see a local nurse on the internets. I just gave a talk at the NLN yesterday about social media and I always feel like there aren’t enough local people who understand the power of the internet. Glad to see you have it.

    Also, hopefully we can keep the eye on the government and where they try to go when contract negotiations come up.

  2. #3 by JennJilks on Saturday 27 March 2010 - 1212

    You’re a hoot – stoned or sober!

    But have interesting comments on the budget.

    During those Rae Days (at least they didn’t do that!), pay for teachers was frozen for 10 years.
    But, as with this budget, even if you did crawl up the grid, which ended after 10 years, they didn’t give the school boards enough money to make up for those with incremental raises embedded in collective agreements.

    Then, going on LTD caring for failing parents, burning out, unable to work with my boss, I retired early, with a HUGE penalty. I went from a salary with benefits: $80K, to a pension of $20K, and I spend $300/mos. on my health care plan. It was a bit of a shock.

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