Nurses’ union seeks meeting with health minister to resolve staffing crisis in Red Deer

Union calls for the hospital to hire the equivalent of 27 full-time RNs

As the staffing crisis in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Emergency Department continues, United Nurses of Alberta has written Health Minister Sarah Hoffman to ask for an emergency meeting as soon as possible.

The union intends to use the meeting to press its urgent case that the government must intervene with Alberta Health Services to require new nurses be hired to end the crisis in Red Deer, UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan said.

“Today’s letter asks the minister to take measures to require Red Deer Regional Hospital management to hire adequate numbers of registered nurses to operate the emergency department,” Harrigan explained. He noted that this past weekend, RNs in the hospital’s Emergency Department worked more than 230 hours of overtime.

“This constant crisis approach to managing the Emergency Department has to end,” said Susan Beatson, president of UNA Local 2 at Red Deer Regional Hospital. “The employer must hire enough nurses to keep the department in operation without the additional costs and stress of constant overtime.”

The request to the minister comes more than a month after the union filed a grievance to resolve a critical and chronic staff shortage in the department, which, in addition to making heavy use of mandatory overtime, may soon bring in nurses from Calgary to keep the emergency room operating in Red Deer.

The grievance, in turn, was filed after more than two years of constant effort by UNA members in Red Deer to get AHS to hire appropriate numbers of nurses. It calls for the hospital to hire the equivalent of 27 full-time RNs, a number based on the hours of overtime worked in early July.

Last week, Alberta Health Services issued a statement to media saying the department remains fully operational and that AHS is working diligently to ensure patient care is uninterrupted. The statement said AHS intended to post 15 permanent RN relief positions in the coming days.

However, AHS informed UNA July 20th it would be posting only eight positions, the equivalent of six full time nursing jobs according to a release. A new proposed schedule provided to the union showed a decline of 7.43 full-time positions.

“So even with the new positions the crisis actually seems to be getting worse,” Harrigan said.

“It makes no sense to be spending money on travel, parking and overtime pay for nurses from Calgary when it would cost less to hire the number of nurses that are needed in Red Deer, and also ease the stress and burnout experienced by nurses already working in the department,” he added.

-Submitted by United Nurses of Alberta

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