05/10/2012 12:00 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Ontario to hire 900 more nurses in 2012, focus on home and community care

TORONTO - Ontario will hire an additional 900 nurses this year and focus their efforts on nursing homes and community-based care.

Hospital emergency rooms get backlogged because beds needed to admit patients are often occupied by those who should be getting care elsewhere.

The new nurses will help get patients who need alternate levels of care out of hospitals and back home or into a community care facility or nursing home.

Two hundred of the new nurses will be dedicated to helping nursing home residents with behaviour problems such as aggression, wandering and resistance to care.

Another 125 will be "rapid response nurses" who will provide the first in-home visits to patients within 24 hours after they are discharged from hospital.

In addition, 144 nurses will be hired to work in schools to help with early identification of students with potential mental health or addiction issues.

The government is engaged in a battle with doctors over a public sector wage freeze, but the contract with about 50,000 registered nurses doesn't expire for another two years.