NHS Cutting Emergency RNs as Expert Committee Recommends Increased Recruitment: ONA Says Too Few Registered Nurses Endangering Patient Care



    TORONTO, April 2 /CNW/ - Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) members
working in the emergency department of the Niagara Health System's (NHS) St.
Catharines' site are caring for too many patients to do so safely, but the NHS
is responding by cutting even more RNs.
    "The ink hasn't even dried on the report recommending that the hospital
staff the ER with more RNs and this employer is cutting more nurses," says ONA
President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "These actions fly in the face of the
Independent Assessment Committee's (IAC) recommendations and in the face of
practices that promote quality patient care."
    The IAC looked at RNs' workloads and concluded that "registered nurses
have been required to perform more work than is consistent with safe patient
care due to the fact that the ER department has not been staffed with the
approved complement of RNs." The committee made 30 recommendations regarding
staff and scheduling, communication and culture and leadership, all designed
to improve the situation at this badly understaffed emergency department.
    Haslam-Stroud notes that, "Our registered nurses in this ER have been
sounding the alarm for years, protesting that understaffing was putting our
patients' health at risk and having a negative effect on the nurses
themselves. The IAC recommendations verify what ONA has been saying for too
long - there aren't enough RNs on staff."

    
    Among the 30 recommendations made:

    -  The hospital must increase registered nurse staffing in the ER;
    -  The hospital must refill its registered practical nurse/health-care
       aid positions with RN positions. The committee also identified that
       while RPNs and RRTs play a valuable role, they cannot replicate the
       "level, nature and complexity of care" provided by RNs;
    -  The hospital should develop a defined plan to decrease nursing agency
       usage in its ER and fill all vacant positions by April 2010;
    -  The hospital should develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for
       recruitment and retention in the ER, and fill all vacancies by April
       2010;
    -  In conjunction with its Site ER Chief, the hospital should review the
       daily hours of its Clinical Systems Investigations area and assign
       dedicated RN and MD resources to ensure optimal efficiency and
       reduction of wait times;
    -  The hospital should undertake, jointly with ONA, a comprehensive
       evaluation of staffing, patient care needs and workload in September
       2010 to determine whether additional resources are needed;
    -  The NHS should develop and provide a concise education update for all
       clinical managers regarding workload reporting to increase consistency
       and understanding regarding the effective use of the Professional
       Responsibility Workload Reporting process;
    -  The ER should implement a multi-disciplinary Unit Council as the
       mechanism for discussion and resolution of operational and practice
       issues/opportunities;
    -  The Clinical Educator should be available for in-department
       educational support 60 per cent of the time.
    

    The IAC is composed of three registered nurses - one chosen by ONA, one
chosen by the hospital and a Chair mutually agreed upon by the hospital and
ONA - and is charged with the task of evaluating whether the hospital assigned
a number of patients or a workload that is inconsistent with proper patient
care. It can make recommendations to alleviate issues it identifies as being a
problem.
    The committee concluded that the difficulties caused by understaffing
have been further increased by "a lack of trust, confidence, and respectful
communication" between RNs and the nursing leaders at the NHS.
    The report noted that the hospital has tried to address its nursing
shortage by "filling" eight vacant RN positions with other health-care
providers.
    Since the report was released, the NHS has cut more RN positions despite
the clear recommendations that RN staffing be increased. Haslam-Stroud says
that this employer "has been under an extensive review, and the Local Health
Integration Network, the government and the hospital must take the appropriate
action now regarding safe RN staffing levels at this busy emergency
department."

    ONA is the union representing 54,000 registered nurses and allied health
professionals and more than 10,000 nursing students providing care in
hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics
and industry. ONA is celebrating 35 years of nursing advocacy - a proud past,
a powerful future.






For further information:

For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240; Melanie Levenson, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2369


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