Staff shortage at Winchester hospital raises safety concerns for nurses

An independent panel has been convened to evaluate professional liability and workload issues raised by nurses, the Ontario Nurses Association says.

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A shortage of nurses in Winchester District Memorial Hospital’s delivery unit is creating unsafe working conditions that could put patients at risk, the Ontario Nurses Association says.

Nurses at the hospital have been providing documentation to hospital officials since 2021 detailing their concerns about the impact of the current staffing shortage, “without success,” the nursing association says.

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“They have clearly outlined the impact of inadequate (registered nurse) staffing on their ability to provide the safe, ethical, quality care that patients deserve and that are required of them to meet standards of professional practice,” said the ONA President Erin Ariss said in a statement. .

The nursing association, which is the union representing 68,000 registered nurses and health care professionals across the province, said that as a “last resort,” an independent panel has been convened to assess professional liability and safety issues. workload posed by nurses.

The independent evaluation committee will hold hearings this week and will later make non-binding recommendations. The convening of a panel of this type is included in the nurses’ collective agreement, said the first vice president of the ONA, Angela Preocanin. The three-person panel includes an independent nursing expert and representatives from the hospital and union.

Preocanin said there has been a steady increase in births at the rural hospital 45 kilometers south of Ottawa since 2021. He also said the obstetric unit had open positions for two registered nurses since 2007.

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“They cannot manage the increase in activity. Vacation coverage does not exist because there are no vacations (for nurses). On many occasions, a nurse works alone,” she said. “When you’re short two (registered nurses) all the time, it starts to create staffing concerns that end up being patient care concerns.”

The use of independent evaluation committees to review nurses’ concerns about their working conditions is generally considered a last resort, Preocanin said, but they have become more common lately.

“More units are coming forward and saying, ‘We can’t work like this anymore,’” he said.

In a statement, Cholly Boland, CEO of Winchester District Memorial Hospita, said patient and staff safety “is our top priority, and we encourage and listen to concerns in the workplace. For 75 years, WDMH has been proud to provide a safe and caring birth experience to families in our region. “Our registered nurses are an integral part of that care.”

In the past two years, Winchester’s five-bed delivery unit has had to temporarily close for a total of 763 hours due to staffing shortages, Preocanin said. The hospital’s birthing center also includes seven beds for postpartum mothers and babies, she said.

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Meanwhile, he said, nurses are exhausted.

“Members have noticed the burnout that is occurring in this unit. They are very exhausted and morally distressed by the working conditions. When they go home, can they honestly say they provided the best care possible or was it enough?”

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