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RNs key to improved health-care delivery

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Recently, on behalf of registered nurses working across Newfoundland and Labrador, the Registered Nurses’ Union (RNU) put forward its recommendations to the provincial government for the Government Renewal Initiative. Government asked for input and we provided our frontline expertise on a complex, vital public service.

RNU recognizes the serious fiscal situation facing our province. A $2.4-billion deficit affects everyone and it has to be addressed responsibly. When it comes to health care, it is critical that measured, evidence-informed decisions are made. For the past few weeks, we’ve heard that everything is on the table, including cuts to the public service. Our research shows that 79 per cent of the public is highly concerned about the elimination of positions in health care and the impact it may have on the system. The public does not want to see frontline health-care professionals eliminated or public health-care services dismantled through privatization or user fees.

However, there is a great interest in seeing health care delivered more efficiently. It’s from this perspective RNU developed its submission, which is available for public review at www.rnvalue.ca.

Our recommendations focus on creating efficiencies, delivering stronger primary care, improving access, recruitment and retention. If implemented, these recommendations will lower unnecessarily high costs in areas of spending and support quality health-care services. Evidence shows that proper registered nurse staffing and fully using RNs’ expertise can save the system money while ensuring positive patient outcomes.

One recommendation is to conduct a core staffing review for acute care and long-term care, something that hasn’t been done in nearly 20 years. How can we determine whether we have enough registered nurses to meet patients’ needs if we have no way of assessing the demand? Sicker patients with more complex needs, an aging population and high incidence of chronic disease are all drivers for increased workload.

The Telegram recently published the amount spent on nursing overtime and the number — in the millions of dollars — was eye-opening to many. RNU has been saying for some time that incorrect staffing leads to high workload, high overtime, high sick leave, increased risk to patient safety and poorer patient outcomes. These are expensive issues and they are avoidable when staffing is done right. It’s a simple concept supported by the evidence.

Other recommendations push for innovations like non-urgent care clinics in urban centres, expanded use of patient navigators, primary health-care teams and strengthened community services. These are improvements where RNs can make a valuable contribution to cost-effective care delivery.

The government says that through the consultation process it is listening. We urge them to hear the voices that are clearly stating our health-care system is too important to undergo slash and burn. Through this consultation process, we have an opportunity to get it right, to thoroughly examine service delivery and make an earnest effort to identify improvements. As the union representing registered nurses working on the frontlines of care delivery, it’s a process we have to be part of. Registered nurses bring value to health care and we are part of the solution.

 

Debbie Forward, RN, president, Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador

RNU recognizes the serious fiscal situation facing our province. A $2.4-billion deficit affects everyone and it has to be addressed responsibly. When it comes to health care, it is critical that measured, evidence-informed decisions are made. For the past few weeks, we’ve heard that everything is on the table, including cuts to the public service. Our research shows that 79 per cent of the public is highly concerned about the elimination of positions in health care and the impact it may have on the system. The public does not want to see frontline health-care professionals eliminated or public health-care services dismantled through privatization or user fees.

However, there is a great interest in seeing health care delivered more efficiently. It’s from this perspective RNU developed its submission, which is available for public review at www.rnvalue.ca.

Our recommendations focus on creating efficiencies, delivering stronger primary care, improving access, recruitment and retention. If implemented, these recommendations will lower unnecessarily high costs in areas of spending and support quality health-care services. Evidence shows that proper registered nurse staffing and fully using RNs’ expertise can save the system money while ensuring positive patient outcomes.

One recommendation is to conduct a core staffing review for acute care and long-term care, something that hasn’t been done in nearly 20 years. How can we determine whether we have enough registered nurses to meet patients’ needs if we have no way of assessing the demand? Sicker patients with more complex needs, an aging population and high incidence of chronic disease are all drivers for increased workload.

The Telegram recently published the amount spent on nursing overtime and the number — in the millions of dollars — was eye-opening to many. RNU has been saying for some time that incorrect staffing leads to high workload, high overtime, high sick leave, increased risk to patient safety and poorer patient outcomes. These are expensive issues and they are avoidable when staffing is done right. It’s a simple concept supported by the evidence.

Other recommendations push for innovations like non-urgent care clinics in urban centres, expanded use of patient navigators, primary health-care teams and strengthened community services. These are improvements where RNs can make a valuable contribution to cost-effective care delivery.

The government says that through the consultation process it is listening. We urge them to hear the voices that are clearly stating our health-care system is too important to undergo slash and burn. Through this consultation process, we have an opportunity to get it right, to thoroughly examine service delivery and make an earnest effort to identify improvements. As the union representing registered nurses working on the frontlines of care delivery, it’s a process we have to be part of. Registered nurses bring value to health care and we are part of the solution.

 

Debbie Forward, RN, president, Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador

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