Canada’s health sector has struggled to manage through workforce shortages for years, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These shortages undermine the ability of the healthcare system to provide timely access to high-quality care for everyone in Canada.
The toll COVID-19 is taking on healthcare workers1A crowdsourcing initiative conducted by Statistics Canada in late 2020 showed that 70 percent of the 18,000 healthcare workers surveyed reported that their mental health worsened during the pandemic is substantial and will endure long after the pandemic is over.
HealthCareCAN‘s Health Human Resources Advisory Committee (HHRAC) is working to identify key priority areas for short-term and long-term federal action that aim to address these growing workforce shortages. Such concerted action is vital to ensure the country has the health workforce it needs to deal with COVID-19, perform non-COVID medical procedures and treatments, tackle medical procedure backlogs, and provide high-quality care to those who need it.
Healthcare workers are the system’s greatest resource, and when they are well taken care of, so are Canadians.
What actions can Canada take to address health workforce shortages in both the short-and long-term?
Implement a pan-Canadian health workforce planning strategy with the goal of gathering workforce data and developing solutions to tackle the shortage of healthcare workers and address the factors hindering recruitment and retention.
Work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a health workforce agencyThis pan-Canadian health workforce agency must examine opportunities to address health workforce shortages, including through education, credentialing, and scopes of practice. It must also focus on how to create a more equitable and representative workforce that reflects Canada’s population. to enable strategic pan-Canadian health workforce data gathering, research, planning and forecasting.
Leverage immigration and internationally trained healthcare workers to address existing health workforce shortages over the short- and medium-term.
Support interprovincial/territorial coordination of education and licensing.
Collaborate with provincial and territorial governments, regulators, and educational institutions to train more Canadian healthcare workers – particularly from Indigenous communities – in the professions and fields necessary to meet the long-term needs of the healthcare system.
Support the health, wellness, safety, and resilience of the healthcare workforce by expanding mental health and wellness research, programs, and resources specific to healthcare workers.
Eight months into the global pandemic, 33% of healthcare workers reported fair to poor mental health.
70% of health care workers reported that their mental health was “somewhat worse now” or “much worse now” compared with before March 2020.
56% of health care workers reported that most days were “quite a bit stressful” or “extremely stressful.”
Why must Canada address health workforce shortages in both the short-and long-term?
Demand on the health system continues to rise as Canada’s population ages and people live longer, albeit often with more complex and chronic conditions. Yet health system investments and resources have not adjusted to respond to these changes. The health system is overloaded, understaffed, under-resourced, and underfunded, resulting in a system that is unable to meet the growing and diversifying needs of people in Canada.
Implementing a pan-Canadian health workforce planning strategy will:
Ensure Canada has a better understandingCanada does a poor job of health workforce planning, and a lack of a pan-Canadian strategy makes it difficult to ensure that the right number and type of workers are in the right place at the right time. This impacts patient care, leads to poor working conditions for healthcare workers, has economic ramifications for Canada, and perpetuates current inequities in the health system, especially given the sector has a high percentage of workers who are women, immigrants, newcomers, and racialized individuals. of the workforce shortage it is facing and the factors contributing to the shortage, helping inform the development of solutions to tackle these issues.
Allow for better insight into future needs and strategies to ensure Canada has the health workforce it needs to meet future demand.
Create a more equitable and representative workforce that reflects Canada’s population.
Help Canada’s health system meet the growing and diversifying needs of people in Canada.
Leveraging immigration and internationally trained healthcare workers while increasing the number of Canadian-trained healthcare professionals will:
Eliminate barriersThis includes aspects of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), such as the time and cost to complete the assessment, certain thresholds that must be met to obtain a positive assessment not aligning with the current realities of the health workforce in Canada, and the credentialing process to recognize foreign training. that make the recruitment of foreign-trained healthcare workers – which healthcare organizations rely on to help address immediate health human resources needs – a significant challenge.
Encourage individuals to pursue healthcare as a career.
Ensure the country has the health workforce it needs to deal with COVID-19, perform non-COVID medical procedures and treatments, tackle medical procedure backlogs, and provide high-quality care to those who need it.
Supporting interprovincial/territorial coordination of education and licensing will:
Help reduce jurisdictional barriers to healthcare education and licensing.
Help ensure process efficiencies that were implemented to allow care providers to deliver virtual care during the pandemic continue.
Avoid a return to the dysfunctional pre-pandemic situation where numerous barriers and hurdles restricted the mobility of healthcare workers.
Collaborating with provincial and territorial governments, regulators, and educational institutions to train more Canadian healthcare workers – particularly from Indigenous communities – in the professions and fields necessary to meet the long-term needs of the healthcare system will:
Increase the number of seats available in university and college programs for all healthcare professions.
Expand access to Indigenous, and other equity-seeking groups.
Enhance support to maximize postgraduate training and internship opportunities.
Create programs that familiarize young people from across Canada – with a particular focus on Indigenous youth – with health sector jobs and providing financial and other incentives to those considering a career in healthcare.
Expanding mental health and wellness research, programs, and resources specific to healthcare workers will:
Help healthcare workers maintain their mental health and wellbeingIncreasing programs geared specifically to help healthcare workers through psychotherapy, needs assessments, peer support, and workplace mental health training and intervention services are only some of the resources that would help healthcare workers maintain their mental health and wellbeing..
Help researchers understand the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s healthcare workers.
Inform meaningful actions to improve the retention of healthcare workers.
HealthCareCAN actions to bolster Canada’s health workforce
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