Nurses' Union Reissues Niagara Health System Censure: Nurses' morale, workload issues worsen


    NIAGARA FALLS, ON, June 19 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA)
Board of Directors has reissued a censure against the Niagara Health System
(NHS) at the request of nurses working for the organization. NHS has been
under an ONA censure since February 2003, but declining morale and serious
workload issues for registered nurses continue.
    Censuring is ONA's nation-wide public reproach of a health agency due to
the negative impact on staff and patient care of poor labour relations and
administrative practices. ONA alerts nursing schools, nursing organizations
and the public about difficulties at the censured agency, urging prospective
nurses to refuse employment until matters are resolved. NHS includes seven
hospitals in the Niagara Region.
    "ONA has made considerable effort to work with NHS management to address
the serious issues at Niagara Health System," says ONA President Linda
Haslam-Stroud, RN. "But our members here continue to suffer from exceedingly
heavy workloads, declining morale due to the state of labour relations at this
organization, and a culture that neither respects nor acknowledges the
experience and contributions of its nurses."
    RNs at NHS continue to be very concerned about the quality of patient
care. There are currently more than 120 nursing position vacancies, and nurses
are working excessive amounts of overtime in many departments. The current
nurse-to-patient ratio is below the acceptable standards for safe patient
care.
    Bargaining Unit President Pam Sheptenko, RN says a culture switch is
desperately needed. "To date, the NHS has been unsuccessful in making enough
positive changes to improve the work life of nurses," she says. "Some of our
nurses say they've never felt so demoralized during their 30-year careers. Our
nurses are becoming ill from the stress they're experiencing, working long,
long hours of overtime to try to keep this ship afloat."
    In addition, the NHS management has allowed its nurses to work with
outdated equipment. "The chaotic atmosphere and nursing shortage have resulted
in frustration on everyone's part," notes Sheptenko. "This has led to more
nurses becoming the target of physical abuse from patients, doctors and other
staff. Something has to change now."
    "While the Niagara Health System says it shares ONA's concerns with the
issues at the facility, our members haven't seen improvements - they say the
situation is worsening quickly," says Haslam-Stroud. "The reality is that
patient care continues to decline at NHS, and until it begins to improve, the
censure will not be lifted."

    ONA is the union representing 53,000 front-line registered nurses and
allied health professionals working in Ontario hospitals, long-term care
facilities, public health, the community and industry.




For further information: Melanie Levenson, ONA, (416) 964-8833, ext.
2369; Pam Sheptenko, (NHS Bargaining Unit President), (905) 354-9766