‘It’s going to bankrupt health care’: Spending on temp agency nurses up more than 550% since pre-pandemic at one Toronto hospital network.
It’s an issue that is receiving more attention in the wake of SARS, with one Ontario hospital suggesting staff must be prepared to pay to have their services covered when workers return.
Even Toronto’s largest health centre, Sinai Health System, is under fire for paying temp agency nurses a rate that’s nearly 300 per cent higher than what hospitals are paying.
The issue has become so widespread that even Toronto’s largest health authority is facing accusations of being broke.
According to an anonymous letter sent to the Star on Jan. 16, Ontario’s largest hospital network — Hamilton Health Sciences — spent $2,924 to provide one temporary employee for the period of January 27 to February 21.
Toronto’s largest health system, Toronto General, spent $500 to provide one employee through a temp agency on just two days, during peak flu days, the day after Christmas and the day before Easter.
And the biggest health system in the country, the Toronto-area SickKids Hospital Network, spent $1,500 covering temp agency employees on three days of the week after Easter.
“It’s an issue we hear about every winter, and I think it’s a testament to just how much the health care sector has changed and what we’re able to provide to patients now,” said Dr. Marc Friesen, head of the Toronto-based medical and surgical team at SickKids.
“The ability to provide that to our patients and to be able to manage shortages in our health care providers — it’s just not possible. We’ve got to have health care that is safe. And people are sick, and it’s an issue that will follow the disease if we have to do it.”
Friesen said a staff member who has flu symptoms while working would likely be paid the lowest possible amount for a