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By Leena Kamat
The health care industry is pleased with the Progressive Conservative government's first attempt to restore Ontario's health care system.
The Ministry of Health announced Monday the province will be funding 106 new nurse practitioner positions across Ontario. Ten million dollars annually will be budgeted towards providing health care to underserviced areas and long-term care facilities, said Patrice Cloutier, media relations officer for the Ministry of Health.
Another $10 million annually will be used for educational and training purposes to establish programs to deal with seriously ill patients and educate on changing treatments, Cloutier added.
"I think it's terrific news because we believe in nurse practitioners," said Tony Dagnone, president of the London Health Sciences Centre. The LHSC is currently the largest employer of nurse practitioners, he added.
"We've gone out of our way to protect our nurses," Dagnone said. He added London is not facing the same shortage problems as many other regions.
Cloutier said the nurses will be working in community health centres across the province as well as in aboriginal centres and nursing stations in Northern Ontario, where there is currently a shortage of nurses. He added the positions will be for new graduates and nurses who left the profession during the last few years due to previous cuts.
"The government recognizes the big part nurses play in the health care system," Cloutier said.
Carol Wong, professional practice leader of nursing at LHSC, agreed nursing graduates have a good future. "Nurse practitioners are an excellent alternative when physicians are not available," Wong said.
"I think it's a welcome but a very small start," said Carroll Iwasiw, director of the school of nursing at Western. She added the province has lost about 10,000 nurses over the last seven or eight years and there would have been a predicted shortage of 35,000 nurses by the year 2011 at the previous pace.
Applications to Western's nursing school have decreased during the 1990s, but during this past year applications have doubled, Iwasiw said.
Marion Boyd, member of provincial parliament for London Centre and health and seniors critic for the New Democratic Party said everyone expected more from the announcement and this is a very minimal step. "[The NDP] are certainly committed to restoring the number of nurses," she said.
"I think its a cruel hoax," Boyd said, of the PC's announcement. "We think it's a slap in the face to nurses."