SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, Jan. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - Concerned that unsafe RN staffing levels and the large geographic size of Sault Area Hospital's new ER have compromised patient safety, registered nursing members of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) have called for an Independent Assessment Committee to examine the issue.
From May 1 to 3, a panel of three nursing experts will hear evidence from Sault Area Hospital nurses about the negative impact on patient care caused by inadequate RN staffing levels. The registered nurses have consistently provided written documentation to hospital administrators outlining their inability to properly and safely care for patients visiting the ER, but the hospital has refused to staff the department with the appropriate number of RNs. The panel will consider the evidence and make recommendations.
ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN notes that "registered nurses in this busy emergency department are concerned that they're unable to meet their professional standards because base staffing isn't sufficient to cover patient care needs or the fluctuations in the acuity and volume of patients here."
Haslam-Stroud believes that balancing the budget has taken precedence at the expense of the care patients receive.
"The hospital has implemented a smoke and mirrors strategy that presents to the public the optics of a less busy ER waiting room," says Haslam-Stroud. "But they've simply moved patients out of the front ER waiting room and into a special internal waiting room called See and Treat, where patients wait almost as long. The lack of meaningful improvement in wait times is directly due to not enough RNs working in this internal area. There are also ambulance offload delays because there simply aren't enough nurses to take over care of these patients."
An Independent Assessment Committee - or IAC - addresses the professional workload complaints of registered nurses. A hearing is called only when the nurses and management have attempted at length to settle workload issues internally. An IAC hearing is a last-resort effort to determine whether nurses are being assigned more work than is consistent with the provision of proper patient care.
ONA is the union representing 57,000 front-line 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.
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