© James McLeod
Nurses’ union president Debbie Forward speaks to reporters in the lobby of Confederation Building Monday afternoon. Forward is criticizing cuts to nursing staff in central Newfoundland.
Nurses’ union president Debbie Forward was sitting in the public galleries of the House of Assembly Monday, as a petition with 4,500 signatures was delivered from citizens who are worried about nursing cuts in central Newfoundland.
Forward said the cuts have meant that in a number of health-care facilities in central, there’s only one registered nurse working the night shift.
That nurse, she said, is responsible for long-term care patients, emergency room issues and other duties.
“For a registered nurse, it’s about core staffing. It’s about making sure you have enough registered nurses on every shift,” Forward said. “As you decrease the number of registered nurses within a facility, you increase the incidence of infections, of falls, of urinary tract infections, respiratory infections.”
The petition was delivered to the floor of the House by Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons; he doesn’t represent a district anywhere near central Newfoundland - which is overwhelmingly Tory - but he said the issue needs to be heard.
“Given the fact that nobody on the government side wanted to put it in, well, I thought it was my duty to do so,” he said.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball also raised the issue in question period, asking whether 4,500 signatures constitutes a compelling reason to revisit the cuts.
Health Minister Susan Sullivan said nothing new is happening in Central Health.
“What we are talking about in Central Health is implementing models of nursing care that have been on the go since 2006. There is nothing new that is happening there, Mr. Speaker,” Sullivan said.
“In fact, what we are talking about in long-term care, the new skills mix ratio, came about as a result of a provincial committee that was put in place and recommended this new skills mix that will often see ... more people working within our health facilities.”
Forward said health-care facilities need at least two registered nurses on a night shift to handle workload.
She said leaving one person on their own is stretching things too thin.
The health-care system didn’t get hit with cuts in the same way as many other areas of government, and the government has been saying that front-line health care was one of the core areas that was protected despite deep budget cuts in other areas.
However, a large number of managers were eliminated from the system.
Forward said that’s having an effect. “We’re told that there will be upwards of 150 managers removed from the health-care system,” she said. “You cant’ take 150 managers out of a system and expect that system to be the same. Those people are doing valuable work today. Who’s going to do that valuable work when they’re gone?”