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This article was published 22/3/2018 (665 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Patients at St. Boniface Hospital are at risk because nurses are run off their feet, working more shifts and logging extra overtime, following changes brought in last year by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, says a hospital worker.
"It is no longer safe in the hospital," said the veteran employee, who has witnessed changes to shifts and patient care throughout the years. (The Free Press has agreed to withhold the worker’s identity.)
"There are not enough nursing staff for the patients. There are the same numbers of patients, but their acuity has gone up. It is dangerous and things are getting worse."
So far this year, there have been as many incidents of nurses having to work mandatory overtime — 328 — as there were in all of 2017, Manitoba Nurses Union president Sandi Mowat said this week.
The overtime situation is getting worse, Mowat said, even though the WRHA said last fall it had been working with the provincial government on making major changes to help reduce overtime.
The WRHA and Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday that flu season was partly to blame, along with a spike in how much care was needed for new mothers and babies.
"We remain optimistic the end of flu season is here, bringing with it a significant drop in the need for overtime in medicine units across St. Boniface Hospital, which will begin to relieve some pressure," a WRHA spokeswoman said Thursday.
"The hospital remains keenly aware of the pressures in the women-and-child units, and is working actively within the collective agreement to hire nurses into the vacancies in that area, having hired seven new nurses already," the spokeswoman said.
"Overall, overtime across St. Boniface Hospital is down significantly from last year, with a total of 88,430 hours from April 1, 2017, to Feb. 28, 2018. (The) last fiscal year saw 118,824 hours at St. Boniface."
The WRHA said the hospital is in the process of hiring 33 nurses.
The staff member who spoke out to the Free Press said nurses’ workload and schedules became worse last fall, when the WRHA made staffing changes. In October 2017, 1,000 nurses at St. Boniface were given position-deletion notices to allow the hospital to streamline shift schedules and increase the number of full-time positions.
The WRHA said the move didn’t necessarily mean any nurses would be laid off, but they could be moved to another department. The WRHA said it would ensure the same number of clinical resource nursing roles would be in place.
The worker said there are nurses working seven days in a row, getting two off, and then working two more days before getting two off. "That’s almost everyone, there are almost no Monday-to-Friday shifts anymore. Nursing is a demanding career, both physically and emotionally. We need our days off."
St. Boniface is no longer the hospital it was even five years ago, the staff member said.
"I used to love working for St. Boniface Hospital. They actually show that they cared about their staff," the employee said. "That has since dissipated and we are all left scrambling, our lives are ruined and all we hear is, ‘Yeah, well you chose this career.’
"The WHRA is taking the care out of health care and destroying their staff members’ lives."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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