Nurses who gathered on the steps of Confederation Building in St. John’s Thursday were emphatic about what would result from a reduction in registered nurse positions at Central Health facilities.
“Registered nurses equals safe patient care,” chanted the crowd of approximately 200.
They arrived in five packed buses from the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union’s (NLNU) biennial convention, taking place this week in St. John’s.
“They are taking a registered nurse off of night shift in acute care, which has a 24-hour emergency clinic plus nine holding beds in our area,” said Brenda Dicks, a registered nurse in Springdale.
“We need to let the public know that this is not safe patient care. How can this model of care improve our health-care system? Shame on Central Health.”
NLNU president Debbie Forward said the health authority is going from “site to site to site announcing reductions in registered nursing care.”
She said announcements have been made in Harbour Breton, Botwood, Brookfield, Baie Verte, Lewisporte, Twillingate and Fogo. Forward also mentioned Carmelite House in Grand Falls-Windsor and Lakeside Homes in Gander.
“It is disgraceful that employers can think you can take registered nurses out of the system, have just one registered nurse working a night shift caring for long-term care residents, caring for inpatients, and looking after the emergency department, that it will not negatively impact patient care. Well we know as registered nurses that it will.”
Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions president Linda Silas said patient care should not be allowed to suffer through the use of Band-Aid solutions.
“We know research says that our long-term care sector is the worst staffed, especially in the middle of the night, and that’s where (Central Health) is imposing cuts.
“Our seniors, our parents and grandparents, that’s their home. It is not a warehouse for seniors.”
Liberal health critic Andrew Parsons worries how the changes could affect the recruitment and retention of physicians in the region.
He called the registered nurses the backbone of health care.
“There’s one word for this, and it’s ‘unacceptable,’” said the MHA for Burgeo-La Poile.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael had a word of her own to describe the matter, noting she had heard no discussions in the government about reducing the number of registered nurses working in the system.
“It’s bullshit. They’re trying to mask the truth with bullshit. Well, it’s over. You’re telling them it’s bullshit, and you’re looking for the truth.”
The group later moved to St. John’s International Airport, where they joined striking workers in a show of support for their cause.