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Nurses leaving Canada doubled in the last five years amid health-care crisis

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The number of Canadian nurses getting the paperwork required to work in the United States has more than doubled to almost 1,700 in the last five years, contributing to a staffing shortage that is a major factor behind closed emergency rooms and hospital wards, according to numbers obtained by CTV News Investigates.

More nurses, frustrated with a legislated wage cap in Ontario, are being lured to facilities in the U.S. with higher wages, perks and bonuses that some say they can’t get at home, with many getting snapped up in an international competition for health-care workers that are comparatively scarce because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even the full-time permanent roles are paying a good $15-$20 more than what you would make in Canada, and then the sign-on bonuses, $10,000, $20,000, assistance with housing and relocation — all of that is typically part of the package,” said Samantha White with Intellistaff, a Toronto recruitment firm.

White said she has seen a major increase in Ontario nurses looking to move south in the last two years, especially since the passing of Bill 124, a law that limits wage growth in the public sector to one per cent a year for three years.

“It’s a lot more lucrative than it is up here in Canada, specifically Ontario, where you’ve seen the rates not go up because of Bill 124,” White said. “It’s definitely been rising over the last two years for sure.”

NURSES CITE STRESS, PAY AS A REASON FOR LEAVING

A part of this exodus is Emily Pyke, an ER nurse in Toronto, en route to Florida after what she described as a year of stressful shifts and unsafe patient ratios, caring for as many as six patients at one time.

Pyke says she’s emotionally drained and worried about being put in a position where a patient could have a negative outcome.

“As a nurse, you go into the profession, you want to help people. You want to make a difference and sometimes you feel like with such lack of resources and everything, you’re not able to do your job the way you want to even though everyday you’re trying 110 per cent,” she said.

“With cost of living, all of that, it’s impossible to continue to work with such a wage,” Pyke said.

ER Nurse Emily Pyke speaks to CTV News Toronto Investigates about Ontario’s nursing shortage.

Damilola Ola-Adigun, a NICU nurse who previously worked in Toronto, told CTV News she now works in Syracuse, New York.

Ola-Adigun said she didn’t realize how strained Ontario’s health care was until she worked in the U.S.

“Everyday you go to work, you’re working understaffed, your license is on the line,” Ola-Adigun told CTV News in an interview.

“In America, there’s a lot more support and incentive. They understand that you have a life, you have kids, and that’s the biggest benefit,” she said.

“I was mind-blown by the amount these nurses are allotted to come into work when they’re not supposed to. It shows the respect they have for them. I’ve never seen that in Ontario. I’ve never seen that in Toronto. You want me to come back? There’s no way,” she said.

U.S. AGENCY TRACKS CANADIAN FIGURES

CTV News Investigates asked several health-care organizations, regulators and government bodies in Ontario how many nurses had left the province, but none were able to provide detailed figures. The U.S. state department did not provide a breakdown of workers coming in under a free-trade agreement.

But the U.S.-based Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a not-for-profit organization, does keep track of the number of nurses applying to transfer their credentials as they get visas to work in the U.S.

CTV News requested data from CGFNS, revealing 801 Canadian nurses applied to transfer their credentials to the U.S. in 2018, rising to more than 1,300 in 2019. The numbers dropped in the pandemic, hitting 947, but started rising again to almost 1,700 in 2022 with the year not out.

Frank Mortimer of CGFNS said the number of Canadian nurses approved to work in the U.S. has doubled over the last five years and could be at an all-time high.

“The pattern that we’re seeing is that it’s increasing year-over-year,” Mortimer said. “I think the opportunity and the financial rewards of migrating is probably the driving factor.”

Statistics provided by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) show Canadian nurses are leaving for the U.S. in droves.

6,000 MORE HEALTH-CARE WORKERS

Ontario’s Ministry of Health told CTV News in a statement its retention plan includes 6,000 more health-care workers, $34 million to increase enrolment in nursing programs, and international recruiting.

“Over 1,000 internationally educated nurses have been deployed to hospitals across Ontario to gain the language and practice experience they need to become practising nurses in Ontario,” says the statement.

Paying nurses more to retain them amid the international competition for workers was not mentioned in the statement.

Some recent nursing graduates are already thinking of leaving, said Pyke, meaning that the lure of the U.S. could undermine some of these measures.

“A lot of the new grads who are just starting are leaving right away,” she said.

A registered nurse takes a moment to look outside while attending to a ventilated COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

BILL 124 FACES COURT CHALLENGE

A coalition of some 40 Ontario unions has taken the Ontario government to court over the wage cap, arguing that it infringes on a union’s constitutional right around collective bargaining.

Projections released by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimate that if a court ruled the law unconstitutional, the cost to the province would be $8.4 billion.

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Member of Canada Soccer support team detained in France for alleged drone use

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PARIS – The Canadian Olympic Committee says a “non-accredited” member of Canada Soccer’s support team has been detained by French authorities in Saint-Étienne for allegedly using a drone to record New Zealand’s women’s soccer team during practice.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement Tuesday that team support members alerted police after a drone was flown over the women’s soccer team’s practice on Monday, leading to the detention.

The NZOC said it registered a complaint with the International Olympic Committee’s integrity unit and asked Canada for a full review.

The COC said in a statement released Tuesday it is “shocked and disappointed” over the allegation and apologized to the NZOC and New Zealand Football.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee stands for fair-play and we are shocked and disappointed,” the statement said. “We offer our heartfelt apologies to New Zealand Football, to all the players affected, and to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.”

Canada, the defending Olympic women’s soccer champion, is scheduled to open its tournament against 28th ranked New Zealand on Friday in Saint-Étienne.

The COC said it is reviewing next steps with the IOC, Paris 2024, Canada Soccer and FIFA. The COC said it will provide an update Wednesday.

“Canada Soccer is working closely and cooperatively with the Canadian Olympic Committee on the matter involving the Women’s National Team,” Canada Soccer communications chief Paulo Senra said it a statement. “Next steps are being reviewed with the IOC, Paris 2024, and FIFA. We will provide an update (Wednesday).”

It’s not the first time a Canadian soccer team has been involved in a drone controversy involving an international rival’s training session.

In 2021 at Toronto, Honduras stopped a training session ahead of its men’s World Cup qualifier against Canada after spotting a drone above the field, according to reports in Honduran media. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.

French security forces guarding Paris 2024 sites are intercepting an average of six drones per day, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Tuesday.

Attal added the drones are often operated by “individuals, maybe tourists wanting to take pictures.”

“That’s why it’s important to remind people of the rules. There’s a ban on flying drones,” he said, according to multiple news outlets.

“Systems are in place to allow us to very quickly intercept (drones) and arrest their operators.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Physicality and endurance win the World Series of perhaps the oldest game in North America

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CHOCTAW, Miss. (AP) — As the drummers walk onto the field, the players behind them smack their hickory sticks to the beat. The rhythm envelops the stands and a palpable sense of anticipation flows through the crowd.

Indigenous peoples have been playing stickball for hundreds of years, and every summer since 1975, teams have competed in Mississippi to become champion of perhaps the oldest game in North America.

A game of physicality and endurance, stickball is often referred to as the grandfather of field sports and the annual tournament in Mississippi is the game’s premier event. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been producing some of the country’s best players for generations. A team from Mississippi will almost certainly be the one to beat in any tournament or exhibition game in the country.

No pads, no timeouts, no mercy

As the July sun set on another sweltering day, hundreds of people gathered at the Choctaw Central High School football field and sat down on the Indian blankets they had draped across the metal seating. Others lined their folding chairs along the chain-link fence to get a glimpse of the action.

Stickball, known as ishtaboli in the Choctaw language, is played with 30 players on the field, each carrying two netted sticks called kabotcha, and a small woven leather ball painted bright orange, called a towa.

Stickball fans say it remains pure. There are no pads, no timeouts and no mercy. Players typically don’t even wear shoes. It is not uncommon for people to leave the stickball field with broken bones from full contact, or gashes from taking a stick to the face. Any player possessing the ball can expect to be tackled or torn down by their jersey or breechcloth.

“It makes your heart just beat like a drum. Just the intensity of the sport,” Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what color jersey or what team, it’s being Choctaw.”

Although the game is high-contact, it is so respected by the Choctaw, and so central to their cultural identity, that no hit is taken personally, no matter how intense. Players often slam each other so hard that their sticks go flying through the air, and they simply get back up, nod to each other, and race down the field after the ball.

Variations on stickball have traditionally been played by several tribal nations using rules created by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Players are not allowed to hit each other with their sticks, although that happens routinely when players huddle around a loose ball. Late and early tackles are prohibited, and anything above the shoulders is off-limits.

The field is never empty

Chief Ben, like many here, was given a pair of sticks as soon as he could walk. Some recall sleeping with them above their pillows and a ball underneath. Boys and girls play together in the youth tournaments the night before the men’s and women’s championship games every year at the Choctaw Indian Fair. All over town you will see kids with sticks poking out of their backpacks.

The field is never empty. Children play stickball before every game — living out their fantasy of one day claiming victory on the same field. Between that, the snow-cone stand, and the almost fanatical way the assistant coaches scream from the sidelines, it’s as familiar as any Friday night high-school football game.

This year, Koni Hata, the 2023 men’s champion and one of the most dominant teams in the modern era of stickball, defended its dynasty in both the men’s and women’s title games against neighboring Choctaw communities such as Pearl River and stickball powerhouse Bok Cito.

The finals started with the women’s championship, Bok Cito Ohoyo taking on Koni Hata Ohoyo, which was looking for its second threepeat in the last seven years. Scoreless at the end of regulation play, the game was decided in sudden death when Bok Cito Ohoyo center shooter Leia Phillips scored with a running midfield shot.

“I said, ‘yeah, it’s my time to shine, this is my shot right here, you worked all year for this,’” Phillips, the women’s tournament MVP, said after the game.

Blood, gashes and breaks

The men’s game between Koni Hata and Pearl River was highly physical, and several skirmishes for the ball ended with sticks shooting through the air “like my 9-iron,” one announcer said. Several players were treated by medics for a variety of injuries including a bleeding eye and a gash across the forehead. Earlier in the tournament a player suffered from a broken nose.

Pearl River had no trouble scoring during tournament play, racking up an impressive 41 points in its first three games. They scored in the first half, but the point was negated for having 31 players on the field. Koni Hata scored in the second half but that point was also taken away for having too many players on the field. But Pearl River scored late in the fourth quarter and took home the ceremonial drum presented by Chief Ben.

As the Choctaw Indian Fair was winding down, Jackie Morris, the coach of the team from the community of Bok Cito, waited in line for a hot dog. He made sure that every passing Bok Cito player had a chance to sign the drum slung over his shoulder.

“This is what we play for,” he said, patting the trophy. On the field nearby, drums and sticks beat together.

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Runners set off on the annual Death Valley ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race

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DEATH VALLEY NATOINAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — During a rainstorm that partially obscured the light of a a nearly full moon, 97 runners pushed off in desolate Death Valley with the launch of a 48-hour annual ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race — the Badwater 135.

After starting late Monday night, the men and women ranging in age from 19 to 69 and hailing from 21 countries and 26 U.S. states, are running amid an excessive heat warning. With daytime temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 Celsius) and night heat above 100 F (37.7 C), they are traveling over roadways open to traffic and passing through places with names like Furnace Creek, Devil’s Golf Course and Devil’s Cornfield.

“For me it’s all about seeing what I can do, you know, testing my own limits, seeing how well I can do these extreme things,” said 46-year-old runner Jessica Jones from Dauphin Island, Alabama, who was running her second Badwater 135, which starts in the valley’s Badwater basin.

Luke Thomas, 44, from San Diego, was running his fourth 135-mile (217-kilometer) ultramarathon this calendar year.

Thomas didn’t know if the humidity from the late Monday storm would make the first part of the race harder or easier. While running an ultramarathon race in Brazil in January “the humidity almost killed me,” he said.

The race, which started in 1987, always takes place in mid-July, when temperatures peak in Death Valley National Park. The park has seen record-setting temperatures this month, including nine straight days of 125 F (51.6 C) or above.

It’s so dangerous that a motorcyclist traveling in the park died from heat-related illness on July 6, and several more in his group fell ill. A woman with heat illness was rescued in the park on Thursday after she and a man got lost on a hike in an area called Badlands Loop as temperatures hit around 110 F (43.3 C) at 9:30 a.m.

No runner has died during the race, but a few people have landed in the hospital, said race director Chris Kostman, of AdventureCORPS, which organizes the race. The route actually dates back to a decade earlier when it was successfully completed by a solo runner, he said.

Participants start at the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. The finish line is 8,300 feet (2,530 meters) high at the Whitney Portal, the trailhead to California’s Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S.

Unlike more traditional marathons in which runners race close together, participants in the Badwater 135 are well spaced out on the road. The race is invitation only and limited to 100 runners who have run ultramarathons of at least 100 miles (160 kilometers) or longer over the span of three years. Only one-third of the runners each year can be repeat participants to allow others a chance.

When this year’s runners set out late Monday, temperatures were around 108 F (42.2 C). Their northbound path was illuminated by headlamps and the slightly obscured moonlight.

Organizers do not provide support along the course, which means each runner must bring a personal support team, usually three to four people in a minivan. There are no medical stations along the route, but Kostman said there is a small medical team that patrols the roadway.

The race is held from late Monday through Wednesday to avoid weekend visitors to the national park and increased traffic of people driving through the area from Las Vegas. Organizers coordinate with various federal, state and local government agencies, some of which must provide permits all along the route.

The current fastest record for the race was set by 31-year-old Yoshihiko Ishikawa at 21 hours, 33 minutes and 1 second for the men’s division in 2019, and 41-year-old Ashley Paulson at 21 hours, 44 minutes and 35 seconds in the women’s division in 2023.

Kostman said the runners, support team members and race employees all consider themselves part of a family, often coming back to the park for family vacations.

“There’s a very collegial feel about it,” he said. “Everybody wants the other runners to do as best as they can.”

___

Snow reported from Phoenix.

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