Services at Petrolia’s hospital are changing as Bluewater Health cuts $6 million in spending to avoid a deficit.
The cafeteria will close and people using the emergency department at night will be registered via video link by someone in Sarnia.
Bluewater Health CEO Sue Denomy and Vice President of Operations Mike Lapaine met with the media to outline the changes coming to health care in the region.
Denomy says every department has made cuts to make up a $6 million deficit which is anticipated for 2015. The change which has sparked the most concern is the jobs which are disappearing particularly Registered Nurses. Denomy anticipates there will be 33 fewer people employed at Bluewater Health once all the cuts have been completed.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association says 39 Registered Nurses will lose their jobs in just about every department. “It’s gut-wrenching for us as registered nurses to again be told that our care must be cut to balance budgets,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN in a news release. “We know that these cuts have a tremendously negative impact on the quality of patient care, and increase the risks our patients have of suffering from a higher risk of complications and even death.”
While registered nursing positions will be cut, Denomy says the hospital will make sure the level of care will be maintained by “matching staff to the patient intensity, stability and predictability.”
That means, more Register Practical Nurses who have different training and skills and are paid less, will be on the floors.
Denomy says using RPNs in areas where the level of care is not as intense makes sense. Bluewater Health is planning to put together units for people who don’t need intensive care but are waiting for a bed in nursing home or who aren’t able to return home yet. “They may not need RN care,” says Denomy noting the intensity of care is lower if the patient is stabilized.
Denomy says the hospital won’t introduce personal support workers – used primarily in home care and nursing home settings and earn less than RPNs – yet.
“We are not moving forward with PSWs now. It needs to be done in a coordinated and planned fashion,” says Denomy. “In a year to two years, we will start to introduce PSWs.”
Denomy isn’t sure exactly how many people will be laid off. The last time Bluewater Health cut 33 staff members only one received a pink slip.
The hospital is also centralizing services. It announced before Christmas that Charlotte Eleanor Englehart’s endoscopy unit would be merged with Sarnia because of low usage. The one employee went to work in Sarnia.
And there are other changes in store. CEE’s cafeteria, which currently is open for an hour and a half a day, will be closed. Vending machines with hot meals will be available for staff and visitors. “There is very low volume there and when we’re looking for savings it’s an area we have to address,” says Lapaine. The cafeteria staff likely to be gone by April.
And nurses in the emergency department soon won’t be registering patients at night. Bluewater Health plans to use video conferencing with registration clerks in Sarnia for the evening and overnight hours at CEE.
The practice is already used in other hospitals such as Strathroy and Newbury and works well, officials say. “The patient volumes out there (in Petrolia) through the night are very low,” says Lapaine.
“There is not a clerk there now,” says Lynda Robinson, vice president of operations. “It is the nurse registering people.
“That nurse should be caring for patients so that’s the benefit of video conferencing – freeing them up to do their other work.”
Denomy says the drastic changes are necessary to maintain the core and essential services. “It’s not just about cutting; it is about how do we do this better.
“We won’t compromise quality and safety and we won’t wait for someone to do it for us.”