New funding for primary care NPs and RNs hailed

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TORONTO- Ontario’s recent investment in primary care nurse practitioners (NP) and registered nurses (RN) will pay dividends for the province’s health system by increasing access to care when and where Ontarians need it, says the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).

Last week, the provincial government announced it was making good on a 2016 budget commitment by providing $85 million to interprofessional primary care organizations over the next three years in order to retain and recruit non-physician practitioners in the sector. The additional funding – retroactive to April 1, 2016 – represents the first pay increase for primary care NPs and RNs in many years, and the culmination of years of advocacy by RNAO.

RNAO President Carol Timmings says the association is thrilled to see this long-overdue pay raise become a reality. “No longer will expert NPs and RNs have to look outside the primary care sector just to receive fair compensation,” Timmings says. “The real winners of this announcement are Ontarians. By retaining and recruiting primary care nurses, Ontario is bolstering this pivotal health sector, and reverberations will be felt across the entire health system.”

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Disease prevention

Timmings says a stronger primary care sector means a greater focus on health promotion and disease prevention. This means people will receive the care they need to stay healthier in their communities, and not resort to expensive hospital care. It will also improve access in rural, northern and remote parts of the province, where NPs and RNs are often the only health providers.

As the Ministry of Health rolls out its Patients First strategy, RNAO Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspunapplauded Health Minister Eric Hoskins for recognizing the health system must be anchored by interprofessional primary care services – including Aboriginal health access centres, community health centres, family health teams and nurse practitioner-led clinics. “Our primary care providers know us best. They must be our entry point to the health system and they are best positioned to lead us through the care we need,” Grinspun says. “Ontariois forging a new path for health care in this province, and if we are to succeed, we must secure a robust primary care sector that is universal, accessible and equitable for all. Oustanding primary care is a hallmark of high-performing health systems across the world.”

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RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. – CNW

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