Updated: Red Deer emergency department nurses calling for more hiring

United Nurses of Alberta wants emergency meeting with health minister

The union representing Red Deer hospital emergency department nurses is calling for an urgent meeting with the health minister to address a “staffing crisis.”

United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) wants to have an emergency meeting with Minister Sarah Hoffman to urge her to intervene with Alberta Health Services and require more nurses be hired.

UNA labour relations manager David Harrigan said last Friday through Sunday, Red Deer emergency department nurses worked more than 230 hours of overtime.

“This constant crisis approach to managing the emergency department has to end,” says Susan Beatson, president of UNA Local 2, which represents nurses at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, in a Monday afternoon news release.

“The employer must hire enough nurses to keep the department in operation without the additional costs and stress of constant overtime.”

Beatson said in an interview that the demands on nurses has been taking a toll.

“It’s hard. A number of them are working 16-hour shifts,” she said.

“They’re getting burnt out. They’re tired.”

There are about 80 regular and temporary nurses working in the emergency department. Add in casual position and the number is around 100.

At any given time, some nurses are on vacation or may be home sick themselves meaning there are always positions to fill.

“You can’t keep cutting staff and expect to fill that with regular casual relief. There’s just too much to cover.”

The meeting request comes less than a month after the union filed a grievance to resolve what the union calls a critical and chronic staff shortage at the emergency department. Two years have been spent trying unsuccessfully to resolve the nursing shortage issue, says the union.

To fill the gaps, nurses are working many hours of mandatory overtime and bringing in nurses from Calgary is being considered, says the union.

Twenty-seven full-time registered nurses are required, says the union.

Last week, AHS said it was in the process of filling 12 registered nurse vacancies and have plans to post for 15 new part-time relief positions in the coming days.

That is not happening, says the union. Last Friday, AHS informed the union only eight positions — the equivalent of six-full-time nurses — would be posted. As well, a schedule provided to the union shows a reduction of 7.4 positions.

“So even with the new positions the crisis actually seems to be getting worse, ” says Harrigan.

It makes no sense to recruit out-of-town nurses, pay for their travel, parking and overtime, rather than hire more nurses locally, says the union.


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