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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:24

SEIU-West raises nursing shift concerns to Cypress board

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Six months after trying to get on to the Cypress Regional Health Authority’s board meeting agenda, SEIU-West members were finally able to discuss their concerns about eight-hour nursing shifts.

The union tried to make a presentation to the board about why they are opposed to the change in nurses’ shifts from 12 hours to eight hours at the Nov. 10, 2010 meeting. They were, however, turned down as there were outstanding grievances that had to be dealt with at an administrative level first.

Barb Cape, SEIU-West’s president, took full advantage of the six months between the first attempt to make a presentation to the board and the closed-door presentation she gave May 26.

“In hindsight, maybe it’s better that we had to wait a little bit because the full effects of the 12-hour shifts have most definitely been felt by the staff. They’ve also been felt by the residents and patients and clients,” she said. “When we talk about doing a patient-first style of health care, the change from 12 hour shifts to eight-hour shifts doesn’t accommodate that sort of patient-first, family-friendly health-care environment and we were able to provide evidence to show that.

“It has been a long time coming, but we finally got that.”

Cape and Judy Polsfut, who quit her nursing position with the Palliser Regional Care Centre because of the shift change, gave Cypress’s board three studies. One, written by Cara Williams and published by Statistics Canada, looked at work-life balance of shift workers.

An article which appeared in the Journal of Nursing Management was also given to the board. That article argued there is a more positive impact on physical and psychological well-being and increased work satisfaction. It also showed there was increased continuity of patient care with 12-hour shifts.

CUPE’s Literature Review of Shift Rotations and Patient Care suggested there were better results for 12-hour nursing shifts over eight-hour shifts.

It did, however, mention the research comparing the two shifts was not conclusive.

Polsfut, who has been talking to union members about the shift changes, told the board the reaction of staff members.

“Staff are leaving,” she said. “Thirteen staff members have left Palliser since they changed shifts and I’m one of them. I worked there for 35 years and I went to home care.

“People are leaving to go to home care or other jobs elsewhere. They don’t want to work seven in a row. It’s very hard on you.”

In order for staff to get every second weekend off under the eight-hour shifts, they must work seven days straight.

As interested as Tyler Bragg was in the studies, he took particular notice of that statistic from Palliser.

“Certainly I took note of those numbers and I want to find out the stories behind those numbers,” said Bragg, the chairperson of Cypress’s board. “People resign or change jobs for all kinds of reasons, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions that it was all because of the 12s to eights because of their presentation. We’ll look into it further.”

The board also received a 67-page petition with signatures from SEIU-West members, registered nurses and members of the community asking for the board to reconsider the shift change.

All this was done to make the board aware of SEIU-West members’ anger, frustration and concerns with the change. Cape also wants the board members to re-analyze the information to decide whether to stay with eight-hour shifts or return to 12-hour shifts.

It appears to have worked as Bragg said the board will go through the supplied material, and other research the union recommended.

The board will also consult with management and possibly patients to understand their positions on the shifts.

“Maybe we’ll see exactly what the patients want, but right now we’ve got two sides of the story,” said Bragg. “Certainly I get the impression sometimes (is) that what I’m hearing is the decision was made lightly in the first place and we’re just doing this. There was a lot of thought put into this. There was a lot of talk about it and it wasn’t done just off the cuff.

“It doesn’t end here, but I don’t believe it’s going to change tomorrow either. There has to be a lot more discussion on this.”

That is all Cape wants to hear for now. She is hoping this will lead to the two organizations working together before the board comes to a final decision on the length of nurses’ shifts in the Cypress Health Region.

“We have an ability to work together to make this improve the quality of care that we’re providing,” she said. “We don’t want to beat the crap out of the board because that’s not productive. We want to work with them and provide them with more research so we can make positive steps together.”

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