Sault Ste. Marie MPP and hospital feel the heat on nursing cuts

Two media releases and seven postings for vacant RN positions amount to zero improvement in patient care

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, May 6 /CNW/ - Responding to criticisms about significant cuts to registered nurse (RN) positions at the Sault Area Hospital (SAH), both the hospital and Mr. David Orazietti, the local Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), have issued media releases attacking nurses since Saturday.

On Tuesday, the same day that the SAH published its admission that "fewer RNs were on the SAH payroll" in April 2010 than in April 2009, the hospital finally posted for less than half (7 of 15) of the vacant RN float pool positions in a belated attempt to hide these cuts-by-stealth.

"Thou doth protest too much," said Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, President of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA). "By publicizing RN cuts at the Sault Area Hospital, we must have hit a sore spot - gotten a little bit too close to the truth for the local government MPP and hospital administrators. I don't know how else to explain two separate press releases lashing out at nurses in only four days."

"Their denials that cuts have happened are not backed up by the hospital's own facts and admissions," said Haslam-Stroud. "It's a shame that David Orazietti would aid in the hospital's denials or, worse yet, pressure the hospital to defend his government's record. He should stop trying to distract from the decreasing quality of patient care due to insufficient government funding and work to secure adequate funding on behalf of our Sault Ste. Marie patients."

The McGuinty government's 2010 budget provides only half as much of an increase in funding as hospitals need to keep up with the cost of inflation (1.5 per cent instead of the 3 per cent that is required to maintain service levels).

Across Ontario, at least 2,045 RN positions have been cut in the last year. As the union representing 55,000 nurses and allied health care professionals, the Ontario Nurses' Association knows this because it is the employer's obligation under the collective agreement to notify the union when a position is deleted or a nurse is laid off.

At the SAH, many of the cuts that are resulting from insufficient government funding are happening by stealth. Without announcements, the hospital simply refuses to fill vacant RN positions for long periods of time, if not perpetually. Some hospitals have even been outright cutting positions when they become vacant.

"Cutting vacant RN positions by stealth is one of the province-wide efforts to save money at the expense of patient care," said Haslam-Stroud. "A hospital posting notices of seven vacancies when it's under pressure by the government to deny that cuts are happening does not guarantee that even one new RN will be hired."

Nurses are on the front lines every day, trying their best to provide patient care that is second to none. With every full-time RN position cut, patients lose 1,950 hours of care per year - a situation that ONA members are resolved to fight.

"The RNs of Sault Area Hospital are concerned about patient care, not political rhetoric," said Haslam-Stroud.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Ken Marciniec, (416) 964-1979, ext. 2306, Cell: (416) 803-6066


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