Nurses Say Elderly Cassellholme Home for the Aged Residents May be at Risk:
ONA Calls for External Resolution to Staffing Issues

NORTH BAY, ON, Feb. 2 /CNW/ - Following more than two years of unsuccessful attempts to convince the management of Cassellholme Home for the Aged in North Bay to fulfill its obligation to rectify staff and supply shortages, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) has taken the rare step of calling for an Independent Assessment Committee hearing into RN staffing levels at the facility.

"Registered nurses have a professional obligation to provide safe resident care," notes ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "But the heavy workloads and staffing shortages at Cassellholme make it impossible for them to do so. ONA has been working with the management of Cassellholme for two and a half years to no avail, and believes there is no choice but to call for an independent, outside assessment."

The call comes because registered nurses (RNs) working at Cassellholme Home for the Aged in North Bay believe that resident safety is at risk due to these long-term, unresolved staffing and workload issues. An Independent Assessment Committee is a panel of three experts who will conduct a hearing into the situation. From February 9 to 11, the panel will examine the situation at Cassellholme and make recommendations for resolution. ONA has called for such a hearing in only one other long-term care facility in Ontario over the past 20 years.

RNs working at Cassellholme have encountered inadequate staffing of full- and part-time nurses, unfilled vacancies on work schedules, the failure to replace RNs who call in sick, heavy workloads and a high volume of assigned non-nursing duties taking them away from resident care. All of these are being compounded by a very high staff turnover rate.

"The heavy workloads, lack of safe staffing levels and a generally unhealthy work environment have resulted in 16 RNs leaving Cassellholme since July 2007. Repeated approaches to the facility's leadership have failed to improve conditions, and our nurses have pursued every avenue available to address the problems, with no resolution," says Haslam-Stroud.

Ironically, Cassellholme commissioned an independent Operational Review of the Nursing Department a year ago, but refuses to share the results with its RNs or with ONA. ONA informed Board Chair Dave Mendicino of ONA's intent to move forward with this hearing in November 2009 in an effort to avoid another costly outside review and address issues that ensure residents receive the quality care they need.

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 and industry.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

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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