Investigative Panel Supports RN Concerns about Staffing Levels, Patient Safety at SAH's Emergency Department

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, June 20, 2012 /CNW/ - An Independent Assessment Committee (IAC), called in by the registered nurses (RNs) at Sault Area Hospital's new Emergency Department (ED), has supported their claims that RN staffing levels are insufficient to meet the needs of the large geographic area served by the hospital, and that patient care has been compromised.

The IAC, a panel of three independent nursing experts, made 35 recommendations addressing the areas of leadership and empowerment, practice, staffing levels and workload, and corporate responsibilities.

The RNs had been providing the hospital administration written reports outlining specific incidents where they were unable to properly and safely care for ER patients, and called in the IAC when the hospital failed to address their concerns. Conducting an investigation May 1-3, 2012, the IAC concluded in its report that the RNs at SAH's ED are being required to perform more work than is consistent with safe and proper patient care, and that additional staffing is needed.

The IAC specifically recommended the addition of 11.25 RN hours per day in the form of an additional RN scheduled to work a 12-hour shift from noon to midnight, and the addition of a Unit Aide position to provide non-nursing duties 24/7 to "enable the nurses to focus on patient care needs." Other recommendations from the IAC included:

  • All RNs practising in the ED must meet the standards of the National Emergency Nurses Association as the minimally accepted competency level for RNs in an ED setting.
  • A full time educator be assigned solely to the ED instead of sharing one with the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Re-establish the ED mentorship program to deal with the coming influx of novice and new grad RNs.
  • Discontinue assigning non-nursing tasks to the RNs as it is an ineffective use of resources and may significantly slow down patient responses.

"The findings substantiate our members' valid concerns about patient safety. They have found it difficult to focus on their patients' needs given the workload and tremendous demands of an extremely busy ER," said Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "Implementing the IAC's 35 recommendations will have a positive impact on the quality of patient care."

ONA is the union representing 59,000 RNs and allied health professionals and more than 13,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, industry and clinics.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information:

Ontario Nurses' Association

Melanie Levenson  (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369;

Ruth Featherstone  (416) 964-8833, ext. 2267; ruthf@ona.og

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