Union files grievance over ER nursing shortage in Red Deer

By Troy Gillard (Twitter: @Troy_Gillard)
June 25, 2018 - 2:02pm Updated: June 25, 2018 - 4:40pm

The United Nurses of Alberta has filed a grievance in a bid to resolve the staffing shortage in the Emergency Department at Red Deer Regional Hospital.

The grievance was filed June 19 with the UNA saying Alberta Health Services needs to hire at least 27 full-time Registered Nurses to alleviate the problem.

The union also wants AHS to cease pressuring employees to work additional shifts, close parts of the Emergency Department to allow safe staffing and inform the public it has done so, and to review its hazard assessment of the department immediately to ensure psychological hazards are controlled in a situation of short staffing. They are also asking that AHS immediately stop using its automated callout system.



The UNA says that despite media reports over the weekend that AHS expects to resolve the nursing shortage today, the union believes it is not possible to fix months of chronic problems without “significant new nursing hires in the Red Deer Emergency Department.”

The United Nurses of Alberta has also formally requested a meeting with AHS President and CEO Verna Yiu under the terms of their collective agreement to resolve the nursing shortage.

“It is important to understand that this is not a problem caused by a cluster of vacations, but by chronic understaffing at this facility over a long period of time,” UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan said in a release. “UNA has been attempting to resolve this staffing crisis in Red Deer for more than two years. We felt we had no choice but to file a formal grievance under our collective agreement to resolve both patient safety concerns our members have and the workplace stress chronic understaffing is causing.”

In their grievance, UNA says AHS has failed to post vacancies in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Emergency Department, resulting in the past 10 weeks in mandatory overtime and additional shifts for RNs equivalent to 27 full-time positions. Even with the additional shifts, during the past month there have been only five days when the department was working to baseline, the grievance says.

As of June 6, 2018, there were 271 known vacant shifts in the schedule for the month of July alone, the UNA grievance added.

RNs employed at the hospital report receiving dozens of text messages in a day putting them under pressure to work additional shifts. Despite this, the employer has posted no additional jobs to fill the vacancies.

“In addition to the problems it could cause for patients, this situation is causing burnout, fatigue and psychological distress to nurses,” said Margo Buss, vice-president of UNA Local 2 at the Red Deer Hospital and a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department. “Our grievance argues the employer needs to provide safe and healthy working conditions.”

Monday afternoon on Twitter, AHS offcials said work is underway to fill some of the vacant positions.

“AHS is aggressively recruiting to fill five postings for full-time nurses in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre emergency department, which we hope to fill as soon as possible,” read the tweet from the AHS_media account.

In another tweet, AHS said 22 RNs and LPNs have been hired in the RDRH Emergency Department since April 22, as well as 15 casual employees.

"The hospital’s emergency department experienced significant pressures on the weekend, due to an unanticipated staffing shortage and patient demand," they tweeted in response to this weekend's events. "AHS took proactive steps to minimize the impact of these challenges, to ensure that patient care was uninterrupted.”

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