Sault Area Hospital Hemodialysis Unit Staffing Issues: Nurses' Concerns Confirmed by External Committee

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, April 8 /CNW/ - The Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) hearing into the Renal Hemodialysis Unit at Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has provided recommendations that confirm Registered Nurses (RNs) have been required to perform more work than is consistent with proper patient care.

"Registered Nurses have a professional obligation to provide safe patient care," said Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "We are very pleased that the IAC has heard the evidence and acknowledged ONA nurses' concerns - and issued 30 recommendations to improve their ability to provide safe, quality care to hemodialysis patients."

The IAC, called by ONA late last year, is a panel of three experts who conducted a hearing into the concerns of the renal RNs in February. Those concerns included that the hospital has replaced RN positions with Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) and that patients in the unit are suffering from complex conditions with unpredictable outcomes that require the broad scope of practice, skills, competencies and experience that RNs bring to the table.

After considering the evidence, the IAC concluded that the professional practice supports and decision-making tools provided by the hospital were insufficient to support the integration of RPNs into the unit. It also identified a lack of nursing management leadership during the planning and implementation of the RN/RPN skill mix, and stated there is no question that the RNs' sense of trust and sense of "team" has been damaged and will need to be rebuilt.

The IAC's recommendations include:

  • The ratio of RPNs should not increase beyond 10 per cent of the total nursing skill mix. "The Renal Unit is at the very lower limit of being able to support an RN/RPN skill mix," it stated.
  • RPNs must not be assigned patients that are inappropriate for RPN care, even if this means calling in an additional RN.
  • The renal program continues to have a full-time nurse educator position, which the IAC considers pivotal. This is ironic, as the current nurse educator has assumed another position since the IAC hearing and has not been replaced.

"The IAC clearly stated that there was no vehicle for nurses to have a voice in terms of operational or clinical decision-making, and we are hoping these recommendations will give them that voice," concluded Haslam-Stroud. "We look forward to working with the employer to resolve these serious issues so hemodialysis patients can receive the care they so deserve."

ONA is the union representing 55,000 front-line registered nurses and allied health professionals and more than 12,000 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
Ruth Featherstone   (416) 964-8833, ext. 2267


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