United Nurses of Alberta met with Health Minister Sarah Hoffman on Wednesday to discuss the staffing shortage in the emergency department at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)

UPDATED: Nurses wait for solution to Red Deer staffing woes

UNA meets with health minister

The union representing emergency room nurses in Red Deer says there was good back and forth discussion at Wednesday’s meeting with Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

The meeting was to address a critical staffing shortage in emergency at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. Nurses from other parts of the hospital and from Calgary are being brought in to help out in the ER.

In June the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) filed a grievance after unsuccessfully working with Alberta Health Services (AHS) for two years to address the issue.

“(Minister Hoffman) is committed to getting back to us in a reasonable time frame and I think she’s a woman of her word. We’ll anxiously await hearing from her and hoping we can resolve this situation and that Albertans can get the care that they deserve, and the nurses can work and get the rest that helps them continue to work and serve Albertans,” said Jane Sustrik, UNA first vice-president.

She said an emergency room nurse at the meeting looked exhausted from the long shifts and overtime.

“(The nurse) talked about getting 32 texts a day, some of them, during their shift while they’re at work pleading with them to either extend their shift or pick up other shifts.”

Many of the nurses are also not getting their vacation because of the need to fill shifts. The staffing crisis is boiling over and so far “feet haven’t hit the floor yet,” Sustrik said.

Recently Alberta Health Services announced it was working hard to fill 27 nursing positions to resolve the staffing challenges.

“We’ve been asking for 27 full-time equivalents to be added. AHS talks about 27 positions. That’s very different.”

She said the union also asked Hoffman to look at what happened to cause Red Deer’s problem.

“We sense that there are other places around the province that maybe aren’t at this boiling point but could go down this path if things don’t get addressed more timely. We are seeking to understand what happened and prevent it in the future,” Sustrik said.

In a statement, Hoffman called the meeting productive.

“No one knows the issues facing our health care system better than the front line workers who deliver life-changing care every day, which is why I was glad to have the opportunity to sit down with UNA leadership today to discuss their members’ concerns around staffing at Red Deer Regional Hospital,” Hoffman said.

“I look forward to continuing to work with UNA and our partners across the province to ensure that front line workers are supported to provide the health care that Albertans deserve.”


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