Nurses want lighter workloads

Nanaimo nurses hope to see some improvements in workload levels at the provincial bargaining table next year.

Nanaimo nurses hope to see some improvements in workload levels at the provincial bargaining table next year.

The contract between the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the province does not expire until the end of March, 2012, but the union is already gearing up for bargaining.

Jo Taylor, chairwoman of the Pacific Rim for the BCNU, took a delegation of about two dozen nurses to the provincial bargaining strategy conference in Vancouver recently. Before the group left, she collected local concerns at the regional bargaining conference.

“The big issue for the nurses here was around workload,” said Taylor.

Patients treated in the hallways at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital has “become the norm”, she said, and duties in long-term care facilities are also increasing – nurses are telling her the paperwork is increasing and they are sometimes not replaced when they go on vacation.

Taylor said nurses will push the province to develop a workload measurement tool and firm nurse-patient ratios to help correct the workload issues.

Nurses are also concerned about their benefits, pensions and workplace safety, she said.

The union has worked hard to get nurses a decent benefits package and Taylor said nurses are worried the province will ask for concessions and decreases to this plan.

Nurses also want the province to lower the age at which they can start receiving pensions as well as improvements to workplace safety, she said.

WorkSafeBC released a report in February on a 2009 violent incident at NRGH that found the health authority failed to minimize the risk of violence to hospital workers.

Taylor said those incidents are occurring throughout Island facilities and not enough is being done to address safety issues.

“It’s a bit of a frustration for everybody to hear these stories and not feel safe at the job,” she said.

The union hopes to begin talks with the province before March.

“We had some really positive rounds of negotiation last time and we’d like to carry that through again this time,” she said.