The head of patient care at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre says the hospital’s emergency room will continue to be staffed at present levels, despite reports of department cuts.
Rhonda Crocker-Ellacott on Monday said two years ago the hospital created a nursing resource team whose members shift from department to department, including the emergency room.
For budget reasons, these nurses dedicated to the emergency department will be allocated to other parts of the hospital going forward.
Crocker Ellacott said the nursing resource team already contains 10.3 positions dedicated to the emergency department.
“This is not about losing staff positions. This is really about redistributing positions within an organization. So there are no fewer nurses tomorrow than there are today. There are 23 nurses, for example today in the (emergency) department. There will be the same number of nurses tomorrow. There is no impact to care at all,” Crocker-Ellacott said.
“This is really about creating a more responsive plan that will really enable us to provide a better solution to episodic care needs, especially in the emergency department. It’s a good solution. It’s better for care. Nobody loses their job, nobody is laid off.”
On Dec. 31, hospital officials sent a memo to the Ontario Nurses Association, a notice of elimination of positions.
The memo, citing the union contract agreement, said it was a “notice of the elimination of 5.6 FTE (full-time equivalent) of positions in the emergency department.”
The eliminations were to be realized through attrition and were “due to budgetary restraints.”
Crocker-Ellacott said it was unfortunate that staff arrived at work on Monday fearing the worst.
“We also don’t want our public to believe that they’ll be any changes to care. In fact, if we have any opportunities, we want to continue to invest in our emergency department. This is our first line with the community, so we do not want the community to think at all that there will be any changes to that care,” she said.
“All of that direct care staff will remain the same.”
The ONA was contacted for comment, but said they were unable to speak to the issue until later in the week.
Crocker-Ellacott said it’s still up in the air what will happen with funding through the Northwest Local Health Integration Network that covers an additional 1.5 emergency room nursing staff members.
The pay-for-performance dollars are always temporary and the funding expires on March 31. Union officials were notified as per the hospital’s contractual obligation that the positions were ending, though Crocker-Ellacott said the funding might be renewed.