‘It’s going to bankrupt health care’: Spending on temp agency nurses up more than 550% since pre-pandemic at one Toronto hospital network
Spending on temp agency nurses has increased more than 550% in the last decade at one Toronto hospital network, according to a new University of Toronto study. The findings, released in a working paper, confirm a widely held perception that temp agency nurses have little bargaining power, have their wages frozen or are paid less than those with full-time employment.
The researchers, led by University of Toronto law professor Dwayne Winseck, examine the Ontario nurses’ agency contracts, which were signed between 2007 and 2009, and examine how wages for nurses in different roles have changed over the last decade, with a focus on the impact of the pandemic on workers’ wages. (View the new working paper here.)
“In the current crisis, it’s going to bankrupt health care, whether it destroys jobs or not, and we are trying to avoid it,” said Winseck.
The paper argues that the pandemic has affected nurses’ wages through multiple channels. In addition to the increased cost of living, the pandemic made temp agency nurses less attractive for employers.
While the pandemic has resulted in greater job losses, it has also resulted in the creation of temporary nurses, as hospitals have been forced to cancel some of their existing positions, such as those for the critical care units. The temporary workers, in effect, are making up for the job losses of those who were laid off during the pandemic.
“The result is that we are losing nurses, but creating more temporary nurses—and that’s in effect creating a temporary shortage,” said Winseck.
The hospital where the researchers conducted their research, St. Michael’s Hospital, is a large network consisting of four acute care hospitals and a health authority, which includes a children’s hospital and the main campus for the University of Toronto.
When the researchers examined all registered nurses (n = 3,093) from the St. Michael’