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Ontario turns to internationally educated nurses to help fill hospital shortages

Christine Elliott
Ontario Premier Doug Ford (right) tours a hospital in Toronto last week.

Ontario is easing some of its rules in order to fill shortages in the healthcare system due to COVID-19. The province will turn to internationally educated nurses to help fill positions in hospitals.

The shortages in the healthcare system are widespread: nurses, doctors, paramedics burnt out or sick because of the long and exhausting fight against the pandemic. One hospital northwest of Toronto said Monday it would close its urgent care center until the beginning of February because of staffing pressures.

Ontario’s health minister has announced one way to tackle some of the shortages. Christine Elliott said Ontario will use internationally educated and trained nurses in hospitals and long-term care homes where the shortages are acute.

“These nurses, who have applied for registration with the CNO to practice in Ontario, will have the opportunity to meet their application requirements by working in healthcare settings under the supervision of a regulated healthcare provider,” Elliott said.

She said more than 1,200 people have applied and they will be matched with hospitals and long-term care homes this week.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been blamed for driving the staff shortages across essential areas, including hospitals.

About 8,000-10,000 scheduled procedures a week have been put on hold for at least three weeks to free up hospital resources in Ontario. Health officials reported that the number of people in hospitals in Ontario with COVID-19 jumped from just under 2,500 Monday to more than 3,200 Tuesday.