Internationally qualified nurses seeking permanent residency in Canada might meet the conditions of their applications by working for Ontario’s overburdened long-term nursing homes.
More than 1,200 candidates have already expressed interest in a scheme that will link such internationally trained nurses with hospitals and clinics in the central Canadian province, according to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.
The government is collaborating with the College of Nurses of Ontario to place these overseas trained nurses in hospitals and other healthcare settings where there is a labour shortage as part of teams led by a regulated healthcare provider, such as a registered nurse or doctor.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s hospitals and healthcare providers have worked tirelessly to protect the health and safety of patients,” said Elliott earlier this week.
“Our government has continued to make critical investments in our hospital and health workforce to ensure no resource goes untapped so that our hospitals have the staffing and resources they need to care for patients during this challenging time.”
Ontario still has approximately 600 intensive care beds available, with an additional 500 beds available if needed. The Omicron strain of COVID-19, on the other hand, has hit the province hard, and the province is actively recruiting more nurses and other healthcare workers through economic immigration programs.
The province prioritized 18 professions where employees are in great demand to replace unfilled positions in its latest Express Entry draw on Jan. 12 under the Human Capital Priorities Stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. Licensed and psychiatric nurses licensed practical nurses, opticians, and medical laboratory technologists were among the occupations targeted.
This lottery took place the next day, following six distinct Expressions of Interest draws for Foreign Workers, International Students, and In-Demand Skills through Ontario’s Employer Job Offer streams. The province was also attempting to attract healthcare employees in that draw, including nurse aides, orderlies, patient service associates, and home support workers.
With pandemic-related skills shortages worsening in Ontario, Immigration Minister Monte McNaughton has resorted to immigrants and temporary foreign workers to fill jobs that are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.
The average duration in intensive care units for COVID-19 patients is currently seven days, down from 20 during the earlier peak powered by the Delta variant, but the abundance of new cases with new, more-transmissible Omicron is still putting a significant burden on healthcare facilities.
The government is reacting by welcoming internationally skilled healthcare staff and expanding hospital capacity. Additional 6,000 healthcare personnel will be delivered to hospitals assessed to be in the biggest need by March 31, including nursing students and other healthcare providers-in-training.
The administration has set aside $5.1 billion to add 3,100 beds across the province, bringing the total number of medical and surgical beds to almost 17,000 beds.
“More than ever, this wave of the pandemic will require us to work as a system, ensuring we utilize all of our provincial resources to meet the needs of patients,” said Matthew Anderson, president, and CEO of Ontario Health.
“We are working closely with hospital and health care partners to maintain and protect capacity across the system.”
There are now 2,436 adult and pediatric intensive care unit beds in Ontario. The government pledged to invest $342 million over the next five years in immediate and long-term recruitment measures to add more than 13,000 people to Ontario’s healthcare system in its 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario.
“The pandemic has highlighted the need for more staff on the front lines of our health care system,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, the province’s finance minister.
“Our government committed to spare no expense in the fight against the pandemic to protect people’s health and the economy, which is why investing in the front lines of our health care system was one of the key pillars of our plan to Build Ontario.”