A hole in the dam

A hole in the dam

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Pam Sullivan | Published: October 2, 2023

If you’re a business owner, you are no stranger to the word red tape. It’s the confusing rules, paper burden, and bad customer service that business owners face every day. Latest estimates have pegged the cost of red tape on the Canadian economy at $30.5 billion dollars a year. This is based on the countless hours that business owners waste filling out redundant paperwork and sitting on phones talking to robots who direct their calls to the nearest voicemail — that’s usually full. Anyone who has ever attempted to open the Pandora’s Box of red tape quickly realizes the depth and complexity of the problem, which is why the needle is so hard to move. But that’s not to say its unsolvable; every so often there is a glimmer of hope.

In the latest win for the war on red tape, the NS College of Nurses may have resolved what hundreds of millions of dollars could not. In March of 2023, the College of Nurses announced that it was taking new measures to make it easier for nurses from other parts of Canada, and around the world, to work in Nova Scotia. The approval process, which went from five days to 24 hrs. for Canadian nurses, and from one year to a few weeks for international nurses, led to approximately 10,000 applications, with roughly 5,000 estimated to be approved this year. The announcement represents a first-in-Canada approach to fast-tracking nurse applications and has taken a huge bite out of the healthcare labour shortage problem. During a time where our healthcare system has been plagued by terrible stories about emergency room deaths, doctor waitlists, and staff burnout, this might just be the single greatest piece of news Nova Scotia healthcare has had in many years.

Also in March 2023, the Province invested over $300 million dollars in providing Nova Scotian nurses with a $10,000 bonus in hopes that it would stem the outflow of workers and attract 2,000 additional nurses to the province. While the bonus may have helped retain some nurses who were contemplating resignation, it only attracted roughly 150 nurses, far short of the province’s target.

While the College of Nurses approach should be recognized as the new shinning example of red tape reduction, hopefully the outcomes of the nursing bonus investment has set off alarm bells for every government official, department, or regulatory board across the country — both in terms of efficient spending as well as the impact of excessive bureaucracy.

This is not a criticism of the decision to try and incentivize workers with additional pay. Given the choice of a $10,000 bonus or a streamlined application process, a large bonus would seem to be the more practical option to attract labour. So, what happened? A possible explanation for the less than expected outcome may be found in Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 paper, where he discovered that more money does not necessarily buy more happiness.

Kahneman found that there is a threshold of earnings beyond which further increases in income no longer improve an individual’s ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being; including spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure. The other explanation may be that our application processes for nurses throughout Canada is so riddled with red tape that a new streamlined process finally opened a hole in the dam, which a torrent of applicants then rushed through. So, the next logical question should be how and where can we replicate this?

Our past two provincial budgets have been focused on improving healthcare, but with over 150,000 Nova Scotians still waiting for a family doctor, perhaps we should be looking more deeply at the approval process within the N.S. College of Surgeons and Physicians before we spend hundreds of million of dollars. We may not be able to compete on a salary basis (for physicians here in Nova Scotia) compared to other parts of North America, but perhaps we could make it the fastest, cheapest, and easiest place to get licensed in Canada, while simultaneously improving the emotional well-being of our health care professionals.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

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