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Ontario reviewing nursing agency practices in long-term care homes, minister says

Ontario is reviewing pricing practices of nursing agencies involved in long-term care homes, the minister responsible for the file said Wednesday.

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said at the legislature that his deputy minister has formed a technical advisory committee to examine the issue in response to queries about price gouging by nursing agencies.

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“I do understand the challenges with agency staffing in long-term-care homes,” Calandra said in question period.

“It is something that I’ve been hearing from our stakeholders.”

Two weeks ago, the long-term care association that represents Ontario’s non-profit homes said they were being overcharged by nursing agencies.

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AdvantAge Ontario, which represents non-profit, municipal and hospital nursing homes, surveyed 100 of its homes and discovered they were paying $6 million per month collectively to nursing agencies.

The association said nursing agencies were “gouging” its homes.

“We are pleased that government has responded so quickly to our request for action on this very important issue,” said Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario.

“Some temporary staffing agencies are taking advantage of a crisis in our sector. It’s a major problem that is getting worse.”

She said the exorbitant fees are undermining care.

“Government must take urgent action to control exploitative agencies,” she said. “That includes putting restrictions on hourly rates for temporary staff in LTC homes.”

Calandra said he wants input from AdvantAge Ontario and the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, which represents 70 per cent of the 630 nursing homes in the province, on the issue.

He also wants to hear from the staffing agencies and to review what other jurisdictions are doing.

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The Ontario Long-Term Care Association said it will work with Calandra to address the staffing shortage and “rising agency staffing costs.”

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“To manage the use of staffing agencies we ultimately will need to address the underlying issues driving the health system’s workforce challenges,” said Donna Duncan, the association’s CEO.

Competition for nurses and personal support workers across the province remains fierce as the health-care system grapples with a severe staffing shortage.

Nurses and personal support workers are generally paid the lowest in home care, more in long-term care and highest in hospitals.

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