Internationally educated nurses to be deployed to Ontario hospitals and long-term care homes

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Ontario will be relying on internationally educated nurses to help fill staff shortages in hospitals and other health care settings. Health Minister Christine Elliott made the announcement at a press briefing on health capacity Tuesday afternoon. 

According to Elliott, international nurses who have applied to practice in Ontario will have the opportunity to meet their application requirements by working in health-care settings “under the supervision of a regulated health-care provider”. Matching with health-care providers is expected to begin later this week, with onboarding new staff in the weeks ahead.

“More than 1,200 applicants have already expressed interest and will be matched with hospitals and long-term care homes later this week,” Elliott told reporters. 

The province is collaborating with Ontario Health (OH) and the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) on initiatives to deploy internationally educated nurses to hospitals and other health care settings in need of staffing support to work as part of a team under the supervision of a regulated health care provider, such as a registered nurse or doctor. 

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has impacted all sectors including hospitals which are now seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients while struggling to maintain their staffing levels.

“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 & CEO of Ontario Health. “We are working closely with hospital and health care partners to maintain and protect capacity across the system.”

Elliott said, approximately 600 ICU beds remain available today, with the ability to add nearly 500 additional beds if required.

The health minister noted the length of intensive care stays are decreasing when compared to previous waves. According to Elliott, the average stay for a COVID-19 patient is now at seven days, which is down from 20 during the peak of the Delta wave. 

Ontario is looking to internationally educated nurses to help increase the health care workforce. 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 that help to preserve hospital capacity. 

The Ford government says these programs will also provide hospitals with the capacity to add another 6,000 additional providers to high-need hospitals to support staffing pressures due to COVID-19 by March 31, including the deployment of nursing students and other health care providers-in-training.

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