RN staffing reductions, service cutbacks threaten rural communities; safety of vulnerable patients at risk



    TORONTO, Aug. 14 /CNW/ - Nursing hours are being reduced in Ontario's
rural community hospitals, threatening patient care. Registered nursing
positions at Hagersville's West Haldimand Hospital, Leamington's District
Memorial Hospital and Sturgeon Fall's West Nipissing General Hospital are
among those that have recently been cut.
    "This is more bad news on the issue of RN reductions and service
cutbacks," notes Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda
Haslam-Stroud, RN. "RNs are in critically short supply, and to cut them even
further is unconscionable.
    "While all of Ontario continues to cope with a nursing shortage, it is
completely unacceptable to be cutting any registered nursing positions,
leaving fewer staff to cope with heavy patient volumes. This certainly is
going to have a negative impact on patients and could put them at risk."
    In Leamington, one full-time RN in the emergency department was cut in
April, leaving only one to two nurses working in the unit on night shifts
while other nurses assist in the transfer of patients to larger health-care
centres. The Leamington ER sees between 26,000 to 27,000 patient visits
annually.
    In addition, the hospital consolidated three units (medical surgical,
rehabilitation and chronic care) into one unit and closed eight beds as a
cost-cutting measure.
    "There is simply not enough nursing staff to manage busy emergency
departments," says Haslam-Stroud. "In Leamington, the employer acknowledges
there are problems with insufficient staffing levels but says that laying off
an RN, consolidating units and closing beds is saving them hundreds of
thousands of dollars. So what price do you put on patient safety and nursing
care?"
    In Hagersville, West Haldimand Hospital has cut five full-time RN
positions - the RNs coordinated care for patients and represented 10,000 hours
of front-line care annually. Numerous studies have shown a direct link between
increasing morbidity and mortality rates when the hours of nursing care are
cut.
    In Sturgeon Falls, three full-time RNs were cut because of a $475,000
deficit, and nursing hours were reduced in the emergency department, operating
room and enhanced care unit.
    Haslam-Stroud adds that, "during the nursing shortage, RNs certainly
don't need to hear that jobs are being eliminated. It should be a top priority
to attract young people to enter the profession and to retain late-career
nurses as long as possible. Hearing that jobs are being eliminated will
accomplish neither of these goals."

    ONA is the union representing 54,000 registered nurses and allied health
professionals working 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, Cellular: (416) 801-8958


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