Internationally-trained nurses who are looking to get their permanent residency in Canada are getting the opportunity to fulfill the requirements of their immigration applications by working in Ontario long-term care homes.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says more than 1,200 applicants are already showing interest in a program to match such internationally-trained nurses with hospitals and clinics in the central Canadian province.
The province is working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to deploy these internationally educated nurses to hospitals and other healthcare settings facing labour shortages as part of teams under the supervision of 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’s Two Latest Draws Targeted Nurses and Healthcare Workers
Ontario has about 600 intensive care beds still available, with another 500 beds at the ready if needed.
But the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has hit the province hard and it is actively recruiting more nurses and other healthcare workers through economic immigration programs.
In its latest Express Entry draw on Jan. 12 under the Human Capital Priorities stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, the province targeted 18 occupations where workers are in high demand to fill vacant positions.
Among those targeted occupations were registered and psychiatric nurses, licensed practical nurses, opticians, and medical laboratory technologists.
That draw came the very next day after six separate Expression of Interest draws through Ontario’s Employer Job Offer streams for Foreign Workers, International Students and In-Demand Skills.
In that draw too, the province was trying to recruit healthcare workers: nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates and home support workers.
With pandemic-fuelled labour shortages mounting in Ontario, the provincial labour minister, Immigration Minister Monte McNaughton, has turned to immigrants and temporary foreign workers to fill jobs that are going begging for a lack of qualified applicants.
The median stay for COVID-19 patients in intensive care units is now seven days, down from the 20 during the earlier peak fuelled by the Delta variant, but the sheer number of new cases with new, more-transmissible Omicron is still putting a serious strain on healthcare resources.
Ontario Beefing Up Hospital Capacity Due To COVID-19
The province is responding by opening its doors to internationally-trained healthcare workers and beefing up its hospital capacity.
Since March 2020, the government has launched emergency programs that have already added over 6,700 health care professionals to the system, including acute care settings, long-term care homes and home and community care settings to preserve hospital capacity.
Hospital capacity has also been targeted for growth with another 6,000 healthcare workers to be provided to hospitals deemed to be in the greatest need by March 31, including the deployment of nursing students and other healthcare providers-in-training.
The province has earmarked $5.1 billion to add 3,100 beds across the province for a total of about 17,000 medical and surgical beds.
Ontario currently has a total of 2,436 adult and paediatric intensive care unit 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.”
In its 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario, the province committed to invest $342 million over the next five years through immediate and longer-term recruitment initiatives to add more than 13,000 workers to Ontario’s health care system.
“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.”