Nurses continue to fight Nanaimo hospital care model

NANAIMO – B.C. Nurses' Union has handed more than 21,000 signatures to Island Health in protest of a new care model.

A new care model at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital could make Island Health the poster child for poor safety and low morale during provincial negotiations, says the president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union.

The nurses’ union is continuing to push back against Island Health’s new care delivery model, calling for the health authority to reinstate nursing positions and do an independent review. It delivered upwards of 3,000 petition signatures during an Island Health board meeting in Nanaimo last week, making the grand total more than 21,000.

The two organizations have been at loggerheads since Island Health announced last year it would implement staff changes that would see some registered and licensed practical nurses replaced with care aides. According to the health authority, the move is meant to  free-up nurses for tasks for which they were educated. But nurses are still doing non-nursing jobs, according to Debra McPherson, union president.

“If [Island Health] want to be the poster child for bad staffing and low morale and poor safety then they are going to be it, because they are refusing to even discuss with the nurses the concerns that they have,” she said.

Kris VanLambalgen, union steward at the Nanaimo hospital, said nurses have seen an increase in patients, which led to wait times and late medication. Nurses are also taking on jobs that pull them away from patients, like portering and inspecting and cleaning bed pans – a task that previously fell to infection control aides. The aides were part of an effort by Island Health to address a high rate of Clostridium difficile and have moved into different roles now that the issue is resolved, according to the authority.

VanLambalgen, however, calls the move  a “huge infection risk” and said a complaint has been filed with WorkSafe B.C.

“[Care delivery model] was so that the right nurse could do the right job and allow us more time for our patients,” she said. “Now the only thing we have is more patients and more jobs.”

Island Health is aware of the nurses’ complaints and Elin Bjarnason, executive director of emergency inpatient and ambulatory care, said the model allows nurses to delegate tasks to other team members.

Bjarnason also says the authority is confident in the quality of care being offered at the Nanaimo hospital and plans to stick with the team-based model, which she says is considered best practice internationally.

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