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Major decline in nursing in Ontario hospitals

There was a sharp reduction in the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) working in Ontario hospitals in 2011, with a cut of 2,750 RNs to 58,699 according to new CIHI data.  That's a 4.47% decrease in one year.  Community health numbers also took a very hard hit, while numbers were up very slightly in long-term care.

For the first time in a long time the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) in Ontario has begun to decline.  In 2011, employed RNs declined from 95,185 to 94,723, a  decrease of  462, or just less than one-half of one percent.

Registered Practical Nurses (RPN) continue to increase in numbers overall, up 1,023 from 2010, or 3.36%.

Accordingly, the ratio between RNs and RPNs in Ontario has declined from 3.52 employed RN per employed RPN in 2004, to 3.01 RN per RPN.  While this relative decline mimics a country-wide trend, RN numbers across the country still continued to increase in 2011 (from 268,512 in 2010 to 270,724 in 2011).

The overall numbers, however, hide the fact that work in the main parts of health care is declining for all nurses -- RN and RPN alike.

There was a decline in the number of RPNs working in hospitals in Ontario, with the numbers declining from 13,373 in 2010 to 13,126 in 2011.  That's a decline of 247 RPNs  -- or a loss of 1.8% in one-year.

RPN employment in community health declined somewhat and rose slightly in long-term care.

Almost all of the increase in RPN employment was in the ill-defined category "Other Place of Work".  This category lumps together employment with private nursing agencies, private duty nurses, doctors offices, educational institutes, private/business /occupational health offices, as well as those self-employed.  This category also increased sharply for RNs.

All told, the decline in the number of nurses (RN and RPN) in Ontario hospitals in 2011 was a shocking 2,997.  Community health lost 2,144 RNs and RPNs.   LTC saw modest growth (530 more RNs and RPNs).  But the "Other Place of Work" category saw a whopping increase of 3,406 RPNs and RNs - -about a 30% increase.

It appears that employment numbers are declining in the unionized (and, likely, best paid) health care sub-sectors, while it is increasing in less-traditional, non-unionized (and, likely, poorly paid) sub-sectors.

Still, RPN numbers in hospitals, LTC and community health care are well up compared with 2007.  For RNs the picture is more mixed, with a modest increase in hospital employment, a modest decline in LTC, and a sharper decline in community health since 2007.

Also positive, there has been a rapid increase in the number of RPNs employed full-time, with a 33.8% increase since 2007.  In 2011 alone there was an 8.9% increase in RPNs employed full time. It remains unclear from the published data which sub-sectors are underwriting the increase in full-time employment.

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