Nurses gathered at Victoria General Hospital Wednesday morning to show their opposition to changes which they say could affect some of the most vulnerable patients.
Amidst cries of “shame” and unapologetic condemnations of Island Health from the crowd, nurse representatives spoke of decreased care for patients and deceptive rollout tactics from the health authority.
Island Health is bringing in a new patient care delivery model starting in January which will see care aide workers taking over some of the duties of nurses for longterm patients with serious illnesses in Victoria hospitals.
Island Health says no nurses will loose their jobs with the change, they will instead be reassigned to different departments or duties.
B.C. Nurses Union communication officer David Cubberley said the first the union heard of the changes was in Nanaimo about four months ago, where the new model is now in place. By the unions numbers, the roles of 26 nurses have been replaced by care aide workers.
“It’s not a simple reformatting of the care teams, it’s a replacing of a number of professional nurses with unlicensed care aides,” Cubberley said. “The nurses don’t believe that patient safety is going to be protected.”
The issue, said Cubberley, is these patients will still require a lot of attention from nurses, who are able to perform tasks care aides are not. Therefore Island Health is asking fewer nurses to do more work, a burden nurses fear will impact patient care.
“It basically doubles the patient load the remaining nurses have to carry,” Cubberley said. “They were already run off their feet.”
The same changes are now planned for Victoria-area hospitals, which will see the duties of about 122 nurses on about 23 units filled by care aides, according to numbers from the union.
Island Health’s executive leader for the care delivery model redesign, Rita den Otter, said the shift is intended to support nurses and free them up from certain duties to allow them to concentrate on others.
“To be able to meet (patients) needs and make sure we have the right staffing in place,” she said. “That requires a different kind of team approach.”
At the rally, speakers declared the changes in Nanaimo a failure, saying nurses are overrun and are having to take sick days for stress.
Den Otter said this is not the case, that sick calls have not increased, that nurses are not looking after twice as many patients and that patient care levels remain the same.
She attributes the nurses’ reaction to a fear of change. Once the different model is in place and running smoothly, den Otter is confident nurses will see that it works.
“That’s a worry for a lot of nurses, ‘how are we going to do this differently,'” den Otter said. “The teams are learning to work together in a different way.”
Victoria General Hospital union steward Fiona Dunn said anyway you cut it the change is bad for nurses and bad for patients. She believes there’s no possible way a health care aide can do all that a nurse does for patients.
“One of the medical units, they’re replacing all the LPNs, they’re no longer on the units,” Dunn said. “There’s hundreds of assessments that we make within a five minute bedside assessment on a patient.”
The union is asking Island Health to halt with the rollout of the plan and have an independent expert review the care model and address all safety concerns.
To this end, the union has a petition circulating which currently has about 7,500 names on it. More signatures are being collected and the petition will be presented to Island Health.