A plan to hire a handful of mostly temporary registered nurses, as well as some causal RNs, will not make a dent in the staff shortage at Red Deer hospital’s emergency department, says the United Nurses of Alberta.
The union said at least 27 more full-time registered nurses (RNs) are needed at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and filed a grievance to try to convince the hospital to get hiring.
According to a statement from Alberta Health Services (AHS) the department is working to recruit two permanent and two temporary RNs, some casual RNs, and plans to look for one full-time and two-part time temporary RNs.
“They keep saying they’re doing everything they can to hire. I went on their website yesterday and there was one position in the emergency department that was posted — and it was part-time,” said David Harrigan, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) labour relations director, on Wednesday.
On the weekend Alberta Health Services reported longer wait times in emergency due to unanticipated staffing shortages and patient demand. The staff shortage was due in part to illness, 15 maternity leaves and leaves of absence.
The union said the department has had a staffing crisis for more than two years that has escalated in recent months.
Harrigan said hospital’s solution has been to rely on RNs to work overtime, and getting part-time RNs pick up more shifts.
“The overtime hours in April was over 1,000, in May was over 1,500, for the first 10 days of June was almost 500. And then if you look at the additional shifts worked by part-time people on their days off in April it was 3,000 (hours), in May it was 3,000, for the first 10 days of June it was almost 1,500.”
He said overtime happens at other Alberta hospitals, but it’s nowhere near this extent, and that overtime is costing the hospital a lot of money.
“They pretend if they hire more staff it’s going to cost them money. They don’t realize in the longer run they’re going to save money.”
He said RNs cannot pick up enough extra shifts to fill the huge need.
“People are just getting burned out. Our nurses are feeling harassed. One received 32 text messages in two hours asking her to work additional shifts. That is just crazy.”
UNA filed its grievance last week, prior to the weekend staff shortage, and on Thursday the union and AHS will meet for the first time to discuss the grievance.
Harrigan said the union would prefer a resolution be found. But if that is not possible the grievance will go to arbitration.
AHS said it is happy to discuss the UNA’s concerns.
“While we acknowledge the concerns of the staff and are working with them, we remain confident that timely and effective patient care is still being provided at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre,” the statement said.