Running out of patience
Licensed Practical Nurses want Eastern Health to lay off their hours
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNS) employed at Eastern Health institutions in the Carbonear area gathered outside the regional hospital in that Conception Bay North town Nov. 16 to demonstrate against the growing numbers of LPNS being laid off by Eastern Health.
By the end of this week, 25 LPNS will have been moved from full-time hours to on-call status at the Carbonear General Hospital, Harbour Lodge and Interfaith Home, according to a news release from the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).
Those affected will lose their temporary-full-time status and move to temporary-part-time status.
Vicki Lang, an LPN at the Interfaith Home in Carbonear, was among those on hand to voice her concerns about the move.
“We’re only trying to keep our jobs that we’ve worked hard for,” Lang said. “We’ve tried to ... work our way up through the system only to be put back on a call-in list.”
Hoping the demonstration would help the public understand what’s going on, the nurse said she hoped they would support the LPNS in their cause.
“We’ve worked hard to get where we’re are, and, hopefully, this (demonstration) will get everything out into the light and Eastern Health will try to help and support their LPNS.”
Health care professionals from Eastern Health operated facilities in Clarke’s Beach and Placentia, along with unionized workers from the Carbonear post office joined the demonstrating LPNS in a show of solidarity.
NAPE president Carol Furlong told the group of close to 50 demonstrators: “It’s a tremendous support to LPNS to have other groups here today supporting their efforts in their fight for fairness and respect from their employer, Eastern Health.”
Pledging NAPE’S “solid support” in their ongoing battle with the health care corporation, Furlong said, “people here today have told me they’ve been on the job for 16 years only to find now they’re going to be getting layoff notices.
“That’s unacceptable, and we will be letting Eastern Health know this is not acceptable to us. It is not acceptable to LPNS, who have been targeted by Eastern Health for some time.”
Furlong noted LPNS have been asked to work their full scope of practice — to go back and take additional training; enhance their skills; take on additional responsibility; increase their potential for liability, and take on a greater work load.
In response to having done what was asked of them, the union leader said, “what LPNS have been confronted with is a total disregard for their professionalism, for the fact that they are nurses, and, frankly, a disrespect and a disregard for the work you do on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The union leader told the demonstrators, “we’re sending a message to Eastern Health that this is the second in a series of demonstrations of what will continue if they are not prepared to sit with us and solve this issue.”
Furlong suggested, “it is horribly unfair for people who have been working for years in full-time jobs to now be told there’s no work for you.”
In an earlier interview with CBC News, Furlong said, “this is a group of people who were scheduled to work up until last week (Nov. 1) and
“It is horribly unfair for people who have been working for years in full time jobs to now be told there’s no
work for you.”
now all of a sudden things have changed. What has changed?”
Cutbacks were planned
Eastern Health said its needs have changed and didn’t agree the cuts were “sudden.”
Marilyn Thompson, vice- president of Human Resources at Eastern Health, said the cuts have been in the works for months.
“Each person received a letter back in June notifying them that it would be likely that their hours would be reduced as of Nov. 1,” she told CBC.
Thompso n a l s o told The Telegram in a Nov. 4 interview, the on-call designation gives the health authority more flexibility.
She said the temporary full-time workers were locked into a weekly schedule, and on some shifts they were needed, but other shifts they weren’t.
“We tried doing as much scheduling as possible, but the needs in our units fluctuate,” she said. “The LPNS acknowledge to us that there were some shifts they were working where there were more people than were needed for that particular unit”
Thompson noted on average, oncall LPNS receive one shift less than full- time status per week, but it allows managers to make sure they only have LPNS for the shifts they need.
“We have people that call in sick. We need people available that we can call,” she said. “We have to balance the needs of our patients and residents in our acute care units, and for some of those needs, having a schedule is not working for us.”
Lack of work?
Still waiting to see any solid evidence of a work shortage, Carol Furlong said, “I gotta tell ya, as a person who drives past the Health Sciences on a daily basis, I haven’t seen any mass exodus of patients from that hospital. I haven’t heard anybody say, ‘my workload is such now that I have all kinds of free time.’”
Instead of having idle time on their hands, Furlong suggested, “LPNS are overworked. And we hear from the employer of a decrease in need for service.
“We don’t buy that,” she said, warning Eastern Health, “if you continue on the road you’re going, you won’t have to worry about LPNS kicking up a fuss because there won’t be any LPNS left here to do it.”
Between April 1 and Sept. 15, there was a reduction of 178 LPNS in this province, according to Furlong.
“The numbers will continue to decrease because new LPN graduates are not going to stay in this province. There’s not going to be any incentive for LPNS to work here. And the people of this province are going to suffer as a result of that.”
Eastern Health has maintained the cuts will not affect patient care. The health authority has said it will review its staffing needs, and that could mean a return to full- time work in the future.
Meanwhile, Furlong assured the workers the union will continue to champion their cause.
“We don’t believe the health care of this province should be compromised for the bottom line. We’ll support you for as long as it takes.”