A Conversation with Senator Tony Loffreda - Part 2

This is the second segment of the productive conversation we had with Senator Tony Loffreda earlier this month (if you haven't read part 1, click here) about diverse topics related to the healthcare field.

In this clip, part of our team talks to him about the pandemic, how it has changed the way healthcare is provided and received, and how it has made it harder for the sector to attract and retain staff. Keep reading to find out more.

Caring Support: The pandemic has proven to be a bigger challenge than expected, especially when new variants, like Omicron, threaten to undo all the progress that has been made. In the middle of this scenario, what resources do you consider the healthcare sector across the country needs to attract more staff and continue providing its services to Canadians?

Tony Loffreda: We need a lot more people in healthcare, not less. So, hopefully, there’s a lot more thinking of purpose; as we all talk about purpose in life. It’s great to wake up in the morning with purpose and motivation and make a difference. And healthcare workers do make a difference, so I do hope there are more and more individuals and our youth wanting to get into healthcare. And that might be the million-dollar question because I think there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to improve the healthcare sector and attract more staff.

One, there needs to be attractive and competitive wages to help recruit more staff and retain current staff. Obviously, good wages need to be paired with good working conditions and benefits, and we know healthcare providers have been working extended hours for many months now, and even prior to the pandemic. I think provincial governments should consider keeping some of the wage hikes they introduced during the pandemic to keep and recruit healthcare workers and properly recognize their contributions.

Two, I think we also need to invest in more physical infrastructure, such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and more. We have a growing population and our hospitals have often been almost at full capacity pre-covid. Many experts expect more pandemics in the future, which means our facilities need to increase capacity, particularly ICU beds. I also believe our post-secondary institutions need to be paced with the needs of our community. I know a lot of students who want to get into medical school. Here in my home province (Quebec), there are a lot of bright students. I think we should look at getting more home-grown talent in our universities. We need more doctors, nurses, healthcare workers. Medical schools should allow more students and not limit admission and enrolment to help alleviate the current and future gaps in healthcare services. This challenge is not unique to doctors, as programs that offer diplomas, certificates, and degrees in all the healthcare sector should try to keep up with the demand. And this can’t be done without more funding and education, more teachers and professors.

One major issue, which has been ongoing for many years, is the recognition of international credentials by the various regulatory bodies, national associations, and credential assessment agencies in Canada. Too often we hear healthcare professionals from abroad not being able to practice in Canada as immigrants or new Canadian citizens because their credentials and work experiences are not being recognized or adequately considered. Canada expects to welcome 1.2 million new citizens between 2020 and 2023, and that number will likely keep growing, as immigration will remain a key part of our country’s overall prosperity. So, in terms of contribution to our healthcare system, these new citizens will need three specific things – and this is very important – credential recognition, accessible and affordable higher learning opportunities, and access to employment opportunities.

And there you have it, the continuation of a great conversation about healthcare and the issues that affect the sector.

Stick around to read the third and final part of this interview to Tony Loffreda, Canadian Senator representing the province of Québec.

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