NSGEU staffing falls short of patient needs during strike

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 2:25pm

The webcast can be viewed here.

Capital Health is dealing with emergencies onlyas of 7 a.m. on Thursday, April 3,  now that members of Local 97 (registered nurses)are on strike..

“Preparations for this strike, combined with Tuesday’s illegal strike, are having significant effects on our patients and is affecting health care across the province,” said Chris Power, president and CEO of Capital Health at a media briefing Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

Power was joined by Dr. Ward Patrick, chief of critical care at Capital Health and Barbara Hall, vice president, person-centred health.

“Despite our continual efforts to explain to NSGEU why we require the numbers of registered nurses we do, service by service, for emergency staffing in the event of a strike, the union’s best offer still comes far short. We have not agreed to the emergency staffing levels they have offered,” said Power.

Power said the number of registered nurses the union is willing to provide during the strike would require Capital Health to close 14 of 26 neurosurgery beds at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. Almost all of those beds were full as of April 2 and patients were unable to move due to their level of illness and the capacity of other districts.

“We are the only hospital in the province with a neurosurgery unit. These are people with brain tumours, people who have had brain trauma from car accidents,” said Power.

Capital Health’s coronary care and several intermediate care units are 100 per cent full and require 100 per cent staffing to provide care. All 12 beds in the coronary care unit are full but NSGEU has only provided staff for 10 beds

“As in yesterday’s illegal strike, we will use every effort to provide the best care we can with the resources we have. But our patients and the provincial health care system will again be put at risk,” added Power. 

NSGEU had once offered 100 per cent staffing in the Veterans Memorial Building but are now only offering 66 per cent staffing.

“These people live here. This is their home.”

So far, Capital Health has postponed 188 surgeries at the QEII and 20 at Dartmouth General. There have been attempts to close beds in alignment with the levels of RN staffing NSGEU will provide but have been unable to do so for two-thirds of those beds. The others are occupied with patients who are too ill to move.

Power, Patrick and Hall also wanted to reassure the public that patients will be getting the best care possible with the staff that will be provided, but also admit that the situation is not sustainable for a long period of time. NSGEU has said it expects the strike to last 30 hours.

“Whether it is one hour or one day the remaining staff will rally around and do what we do every single day here at Capital Health: provide the best possible care we can,” said Power.