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IAC releases recommendations for nurse working conditions at KHSC unit

Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) have released a report sharing the results of an independent assessment.

An Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) was called in to investigate conditions on KGH’s Connell 10 unit stemming from Professional Workload Complaints put forward by Registered Nurses on the unit.

It’s the second time in two years that an IAC has been called in and made recommendations for KHSC, something that ONA President Erin Ariss said is a problem in itself.

“It is unprecedented that an employer is brought in front of an IAC not once, but twice in such a short period of time,” said Ariss in a release.

“ONA registered nurses have raised concerns with their employer for years, with zero action from the hospital. It is well past time for this employer to work collaboratively with ONA to address and resolve these issues once and for all.”

There are 99 recommendations in total given by this IAC, with a particular focus on staffing and reducing the nursing shortfall.

The report noted that the shortage of healthcare workers -particularly nurses- is at the forefront of problems for healthcare institutions across the country, but that shouldn’t be continuously used as an excuse from the hospital.

ONA First Vice-President Angela Preocanin said nurses are well aware of the nursing shortage, and know it will take time to address.

She says, however, existing staff would like to see more effort to appreciate and incentivize their work and make a position at KHSC difficult to leave.

“The money that our employers are spending on agencies could be redirected and funneled back into the system to allow for the nurses that work in these places [to be] incentivized to stay,” Preocanin said.

“We’re spending so much money on private healthcare and that could be drawn back into the system.”

Preocanin says while the efforts to recruit more nurses are needed and appreciated, those who are working in understaffed units should be further incentivized so that they feel better about the environment they work in.

The hospital did point out to the IAC that several efforts have been undertaken to improve the existing work environment.

KHSC’s policies and programs to protect the physical and psychological health of nurses have seemingly contributed to a decrease in health related incidents, and in the last two years management overhaul on the unit and a focus on staff engagement has led to improved morale.

KHSC’s recruitment incentives, a $10,000 signing bonus for new nurses for example, have helped to increase staffing levels, but existing nurses can feel overlooked when their continued employment is not necessarily incentivized the same way.

Jason Hann, Executive Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive at KHSC, says that’s understandable, but the hospital is providing other incentives for nurses already working here.

He says monetary incentivization for staff can be a complicated issue, and the hospital has tried to focus retention efforts on other things while really looking at recruitment efforts as a first priority.

“What we’re really focusing on with our tenured staff or our staff that continue to work here is looking at access to further professional development support in the workplace, so meaningful retention strategies,” Hann.

“Once you’re here, we have a lot of programs for tuition reimbursement… really the key here is recruit, focus on retention as the workforce stabilises.”

As KHSC continues to focus on recruitment, ONA would like more transparency and to really see the efforts that are being taken.

Preocanin says the union hopes to be involved along with KHSC to adopt these recommendations and improve the work environment.

She says a hospital having two IACs in two years won’t be an attractive recruiting piece for new nurses.

“It’s lip service to say we’re recruiting but do we know that for certain?” Preocanin said.

“That would be something that ONA could be involved in at a local level… to work with the employer to go out and and find students [that] are coming out of nursing school, they’re going to come out looking for places that are going to be appealing… I really hope that the employer will work with us and work to improve patient care and to ensure that it’s safe, quality, good patient care.”

Overall, KHSC is proud of it’s recruitment efforts and the amount they’ve managed to decrease the shortfall over the last few years, but it hasn’t quite been enough for ONA.

Jason Hann says the report, however, shows positive change has happened on the Connell 10 wing, but the hospital is open to working with ONA to further improve.

“The panel found that the quality of care on Connell 10 has been maintained or has continued to improve,” Hann said.

“The whole point is to solicit third-party recommendations for issues that we haven’t been able to come to agreement on together, and in the spirit of collaboration and partnership, we’ll use these recommendations to help guide our conversations with the union and our staff moving forward.”

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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