Saskatchewan’s nurses’ union is concerned as 20 people are being laid off from the mental health unit at Regina’s General Hospital.
According to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), 20 people are being laid off from the unit – 11 of which are Registered Nurses, and the majority of those are Registered Psychiatric Nurses. The union didn’t know when the layoffs would happen.
“We know that when you start moving registered nurses out of the system there is a very high potential for negative impact on patient safety, so it leads one to wonder if that’s what’s going to happen in the end here,” said Tracy Zambory, president of SUN.
She explained the patients in the mental health unit are acutely ill with very complex needs and have a very specialized level of care.
Zambory said the mental health unit has some of the highest overtime rates in the region, and the needs of the patient population haven’t changed. After the layoffs, when the patients can’t get the help they need, she said they’ll turn up in other places like the ER and community programs.
“It just means that the cost is going to go somewhere else in the system, so there’s going to be potential of negative effects all over the place.”
Zambory said there was no measurement or evaluation of needs in the unit, and she’s concerned the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region is putting budget needs ahead of patient safety in these decisions.
“We need to be looking at a long-term evidence-based solution. We need to look at the research and evidence that is going to support patient safety so that these acutely ill patients have the proper care that they need.”
Two weeks ago, the health region announced there would be layoffs but couldn’t say at the time where they would be.
The Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) CEO insists these changes are more about scheduling and will not negatively impact patient care.
“The care is still there, this is really a result of changing the way a schedule is done,” Keith Dewar maintained.
“I am not concerned about patient care dropping off as a result of these changes we are making.”
Dewar explained the RQHR has spent the last two years looking at how it cares for patients and trying to be as sufficient as possible with the resources provided to them.
He cited the success in home care which has increased the number of hours patients spend with nurses in their homes simply by changing staff hours.
Dewar contends they are trying to work with the unions involved in the hopes of finding staff other jobs within the region.
There are currently 197 full-time, part-time and casual staff that work within the mental health unit and 128 of them are registered nurses/registered psychiatric nurses.
(With files from Sarah Mills.)