Run­ning out of pa­tience

Li­censed Prac­ti­cal Nurses want East­ern Health to lay off their hours

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

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.

Tremen­dous sup­port

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.”

LPNS dis­re­garded

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.”

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