Nursing cuts coming at inpatient mental health unit at PCH

Nancy MacPhee
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Health P.E.I. says move isn’t a cost-saving measure

SUMMERSIDE – The elimination of nursing positions in the inpatient mental health unit at Prince County Hospital and at the Provincial Addictions facility is not a cost saving measure, says a Health P.E.I. representative.

Prince County Hospital

But the president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union, Mona O’Shea believes differently, arguing that money, and not the best interest of patients, is behind the move.

In a press release issued late Thursday, O’Shea indicated that the union, in light of government’s recent focus and announcements on improving mental health and addictions services in the province, was shocked to learn that Health P.E.I. is “deleting a significant number” of nursing positions in those areas.

The union says registered nurses at both Prince County Hospital and the Provincial Addictions Facility in Mount Herbert have been told that over the next couple of months five RN positions are being deleted.

“It is unbelievable to me that Health P.E.I. and the government have created a mandate that has, as its primary goal, a focus on improving the mental health and addiction services provided to Islanders and yet they think reducing the current number of registered nurses is a logical place to start,” said O’Shea.

“The registered nurses at these work sites are highly educated and dedicated professionals who provide expert care to their patients, many of whom suffer from debilitating mental health illnesses and complex addictions issues. These clients need and deserve the expert nursing care our members provide.”

Rick Adams, executive director of corporate development and long-term care with Health P.E.I., confirmed that 4.5 full-time equivalent registered nursing positions are being eliminated — 2.4 at Prince County Hospital and 2.1 at Mount Herbert.

The move is all part of the province and Health P.E.I.’s implementation of its Collaborative Model of Care, first introduced in 2010.

“The RN positions are being deleted, yes,” he confirmed, but added that with the RN positions eliminated more licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are being added. “We will have an increase in LPNs at the two facilities combined of 5.7 positions. In- patient care and resident care workers will have an increase of 5.5 positions.”

LPNs have less training and education and make less money than RNs in this province.

When asked if the province was strategically eliminating RNs in order to be able to hire more LPNs, Adams said that wasn’t the case.

“On the surface that may seem what it looks like but if you consider the net new positions that have been put in place in Health P.E.I. for the last number of years, that observation wouldn’t hold true,” he added. “If we considered and determined what patient needs would be and determined an LPN, within their scope, can provide this level of service for a patient and if an RN is making X dollars and we can meet the patient needs by recruiting an LPN, that’s great.

“We can actually add additional positions to cover the dollars we would have been saving. We are not actually saving money through CMOC. What we’ve done is better provide for the needs of the patient.”

Adams feels confident the needs of patients will be adequately met with the change.

“We know that in recent history the scope and depth of LPN training has certainly increased and they will be working within their scope of practice. They will be carrying out duties and responsibilities in patient care, which they have been educated and trained to do,” he added. “We need to… manage our resources that we do have, both our people and our dollars, as wisely as we can.”

But in her press release, O’Shea said that from the union’s perspective, cutting the number of registered nurses is purely a cost saving measure, adding that the result will reduce the level and frequency of expert care these clients have access to.

Adams said, “Across Health P.E.I., as we have continued to move forward into year four of the Model of Care, it has not been about cost savings. In fact, across the province, there have been about 35 to 40 new positions, net, that have been added to the system. There are additional costs. There may be fewer of one type of worker but there are more of other types of workers.”

When asked why — when greater emphasis is being placed on improving mental health and addictions services — government didn’t simply add LPNs positions to the existing RN positions at the inpatient mental health unit at PCH and at the Provincial Addictions Facility, Adams said “It’s not just about nursing.”

“Collaborative model of care is about more than nursing. It is about providing other supports in addition to nursing, whether it is counselling, personal cares and so we are confident that the model that’s being put forward will certainly meet the patient needs,” he added. “This is not a one-time deal. We will continue to monitor as we do in other departments across Health P.E.I. where we make changes to staffing.”

Adams said the RN positions being eliminated are currently being filled by casual workers, noting that he feels they will be able to find work elsewhere.

At PCH, the 2.4 positions will be cut sometime around the middle of March while at Mount Herbert the 2.1 RN positions will be eliminated by the first of April.

Once the change is implemented, there will be 5.6 full-time equivalent RN positions at the inpatient mental health unit at PCH and 6.3 full-time equivalent registered nursing positions remaining at the Provincial Addictions Facility’s withdrawal management unit.

O’Shea could not be reached for further comment on the issue.


Organizations: Prince County Hospital, Health P.E.I.

Geographic location: Mount Herbert

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Recent comments

  • Terry Wood
    February 01, 2014 - 12:00

    So who determined how to provide the best level of care of these patients? Did you consult with the doctors and nurses who are the professionals in this area? I would be very interested to know how this was determined. In the corporate world numbers are the main concern and no matter what you say if you are the"executive director of corporate development and long term care" that means you are all about numbers and if you haven't consulted with the people in the field you no nothing about the needs of these patients. The fact that you are taking experienced people with at least 4 years of training and replacing them with people that have a 2 year program does give me some concern especially in the Mental Health field. No matter what way you spin it, it is about money. Just be honest and say it!

  • AnonymousIslander
    January 31, 2014 - 14:08

    Where will they find work Rick? You seem to think they will, so where would that be? With Model of Care wiping out RN positions across the Island, where do surplussed nurses who dedicated themselves to mental health and addictions find work? Are you so simple as to think that they just pick up and go work in another highly specialized field. Are you completely ignorant of the education and experience required to work in these fields of nursing? They can't just slide sideways into another cushy job like you just did.

    January 31, 2014 - 10:37

    All RNs on PEI should go on strike. This is a war that the fools at Health PEI are waging against RNs. LPNs do not have the kind of training that RNs have.What they are is cheaper labor,plain and simple.How can we let these people at Health PEI run the health care system when they jave no idea whatsoever. If this is not a cost saving move, just what is it? They are replacing the RNs with lower paid LPNs. Is it because LPNs are better trained than RNs? I don't think so. It sounds like Rick Adams is taking a page out of Julian Fantino's book.

  • Murray MacDonald
    January 30, 2014 - 20:37

    You have got to be kidding me. What's next? G.P.s performing bypass surgery!