By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun
The federal budget has come and gone, although its many-zeroed figures are still being bandied about in the media.
That must mean the health care professions, hospitals and clinics will soon be seeing the big bucks to train and hire more doctors and nurses and therapists and technologists of every kind. Not quite.
In fact, once the budget's numbers have been broken down, there's rather less money coming from Ottawa than a job seeker might find comfort from. And, of course, it's going to take some time for those funds to make their way into the hands of the authorities who can open up the hiring lists and start filling vacancies.
Dr. Albert Schumacher, a family physician in Windsor, Ont., and president of the Canadian Medical Association, says there are two good things that emerged from the recent budget. The first is that the $41 billion put up for health care at a First Ministers' conference last year will remain in place as promised. The second is Ottawa's recognition of the importance of public and environmental health, which received $300 million of the $805 million Finance Minister Ralph Goodale announced in the Feb. 23 budget.
However, "The disappointing part was that there was nothing in there for long-term human resource strategy or investment. No new medical student spots, no new resident training spots. And nothing (either) to help with medical student and resident debt," Schumacher says.
| RALPH GOODALE
Deborah Tamlyn, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, says her group is generally pleased with the federal budget. She too picks out the previously announced $41 billion, 10-year deal and the $300 million that's been earmarked for public and environmental health.
"We think (the $300 million) is going to provide significant employment opportunities for nurses with community health backgrounds," Tamlyn says. "That's very important in our eyes."
Two other areas her association thought were noteworthy were Ottawa's commitment to childcare and the $75 million to assess the qualifications of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals trained overseas.
Pleased as the nurses are, though, Tamlyn says all the funding in the world won't address staff shortages; only planning will do that, she continues. "The Canadian Nurses Association is going to be working across the country to ensure that there's a keen focus on employment opportunities for nurses because we see they are needed to address (the problem) of wait lists; they're going to be needed (for) the move towards community-based care."
HEALTH CARE BY THE NUMBERS|
The new federal budget contains $805 million in health care spending.
$75 million over five years has been earmarked to help assess and integrate medical professionals who were trained abroad.
No new initiatives were announced to increase the numbers of places available in medical or nursing schools or other institutions that train health care professionals.
It is expected to take at least a year for funds from this budget to find their way into the health care system.
The $75 million that will help internationally trained professionals qualify to practise in Canada is being spread over five years, note Schumacher and Joan Atlin, executive director of the Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (AIPSO), with both calling the $15 million a year commitment "a drop in the bucket."
In AIPSO's estimation there are between 4,000 and 6,000 foreign-trained doctors living in Ontario, with only a handful of them actually working in their chosen profession, Atlin points out.
Jim McCormick, president of the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario, wants to know if the budget makers talked to all the stakeholders in the health care sector before they did their math. He suggests that, as well as conferring with doctors and nurses, they should also consult the numerically smaller but still important professions such as his.
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