CNA News Room

Federal budget sends mixed signals on critical nursing shortages impacting Canadians’ access to primary care


April 17, 2024 — The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) believes the 2024 federal budget sends mixed signals about the current health crisis characterized by critical nursing shortages and eroding access to primary care as service interruptions and delays are reported daily. Despite several positive commitments to the social determinants of health, additional substantial efforts are required to stabilize and sustainably grow our domestic supply of nurses to meet Canada’s collective health needs. Recent progress and future efforts in foreign credential recognition are creating positive system change, but an over-reliance on international recruitment is unsustainable in the face of global shortages of nurses.

During the October 2023 health ministers’ meeting, the provinces and territories agreed on common objectives to fix our broken health-care systems. CNA was hopeful that, with recent health announcements, including the creation of Health Workforce Canada, the federal government would finally create a pan-Canadian strategy on health human resources planning, the last one dating back to 2004. The next health ministers’ meeting offers an opportunity to build on last year’s successes and have all levels of government agree to a coordinated approach to stabilize our health workforce.

“Nurses are continually asked to do more with fewer resources and face overwhelming moral distress. These are serious signs that the status quo is no longer possible. If adequately supported and invited to decision-making tables, nurses have solutions to solve several of our health-care systems’ ongoing challenges,” says CNA president Sylvain Brousseau.

CNA welcomes key investment in Indigenous health and applauds the federal government’s commitments towards the social determinants of health, such as the national school food program and housing initiatives. However, there are no specific measures to address health workers’ mental health, a missed opportunity to address an issue that has a negative compound impact on the overall delivery of care to Canadians, including mental health services. CNA will closely monitor the deployment of the newly announced Youth Mental Health Fund and hopes it will include measures specific to health workers.

“The federal government’s longstanding trend of reducing its relative share of investment in total health expenditures, despite predictable growing needs such as those caused by our aging population, indicates that the burden ultimately falls on provincial and territorial governments. But their limited financial capacity means health systems must become more efficient by optimizing each health professional's contribution, which requires reviewing their respective scopes of practice and increasing interdisciplinary collaboration and team-based care,” says Brousseau.


About the Canadian Nurses Association
CNA is the national and global professional voice of Canadian nursing. Our mission is to advance the nursing profession to improve health outcomes in Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system. CNA is the only national association that speaks for all nurses in all sectors and practice settings across all 13 provinces and territories. We represent unionized and non-unionized nurses, retired nurses, nursing students, and all categories of nurses (licensed and registered practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses).

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Amber Morley
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