NLNU: Standing up for safe staffing and safe patient care in Central

News Category: 
Publication date: 
Mon, 2012-12-17

Standing up for safe staffing and safe patient care in Central

Central Health is planning to reduce the number of registered nurses working in facilities throughout Central Newfoundland. Facilities in the following communities will be impacted: Brookfield, Botwood, Springdale, Twillingate, Harbour Breton, Baie Verte, Fogo, Gander (Lakeside Homes), Grand Falls-Windsor (Carmelite House), and Lewisporte.
Registered nurses and community members from Central Newfoundland have serious concerns over the impact these staffing changes will have on patient/resident care. Physicians in many communities have also expressed deep concern.

Central Health has repeatedly said that no jobs will be cut. This is true. Central Health does not plan to layoff registered nurses. Those who will lose their jobs due to positions being cut will be displaced to other areas.

This does not change the fact, however, that registered nurse positions will be eliminated in 10 communities. Central Health’s claim of no job cuts is little reassurance to the people who live in the communities affected. “Yes, there will be less registered nurses working in your community, but don’t worry they’ll likely be working in a large health care facility that is two hours away from you.”

This is little reassurance to the mom with a child in distress, or to the man whose wife was just seriously injured in an accident, or to the long-term care resident who is having a severe reaction to a medication.

Central Health is simply clouding the real issue. Less registered nurse staffing will mean a reduction in the level of care provided in these communities.

In particular, the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union (NLNU) is concerned that in a number of facilities, these reductions will mean just one registered nurse will work the night shift. In one case, it will mean that one registered nurse will oversee the care for up to 100 long-term care residents. That’s worth repeating. One registered nurse to 100 long-term care residents. Sound like safe staffing?

Often, the health care facilities in the rural settings affected offer a complete range of care, including long-term care and full emergency and medical services. Registered nurses in these facilities are responsible for managing the team and coordinating the care of all patients. They must be prepared to care for all types of conditions, from motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, strokes, to difficult labour and deliveries. They must also treat patients of all ages, from the youngest child to the elderly.

Removing even one or two registered nurse positions at these facilities will have a substantial impact on the care delivered.
Central Health has argued they are actually increasing the number of staff at some of the affected facilities. While it is true that, in some cases, there will be an increase in the number of licensed practical nurses or personal care attendants, but this does not compensates for the loss of registered nurse positions.

Registered nurses are the only nursing providers who can independently provide care for the full range of patient conditions, including those who are unstable and critically ill. Registered nurses provide an expert level of care and bring value to the health care system that no other health provider can.

Two decades of national and international research have consistently demonstrated a clear relationship between inadequate registered nurse staffing and poor patient outcomes, including increases in mortality rates, hospital-acquired pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sepsis, falls, medication errors, and pressure ulcers.

A research report prepared by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions entitled Nursing Workload and Patient Care: Understanding the value of nurses, the effects of excessive workload and how nurse-patient ratios and dynamic staffing models can help outlines this research. To access the report, visit

In January, we will hold a series of rallies to call on Central Health to put patients and health care first. Please join with registered nurses and NLNU in standing up to ensure high quality care for the residents of Central Newfoundland.

NLNU and printed in The Telegram