GANDER, NL – The three-month minimum shift of obstetrical delivery services from Gander to Grand Falls-Windsor is likely to affect 20 families per month, according to Central Health.
But nursing staff are being overlooked in the matter, says Debbie Forward, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland & Labrador.
When a diversion is issued, one registered nurse from James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre is required to work in Grand Falls-Windsor, Forward said.
Obstetric diversions have been ongoing over the past 10 years, according to Forward. Previously, she said, moving RNs would typically have been done on an increased workload basis.
But leading into 2018, Central Health issued a requirement for an obstetric RN to assist the other hospital during a diversion.
In this case, a Gander-based RN will be required to travel between Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor daily. Forward also stated that sick leave relief could potentially have to be filled by obstetric RNs based in Gander as well.
That’s not sitting well with the union.
“To me it speaks to the challenges that are happening in Central Health…” Forward said. “From my members’ perspective, they have lives outside of work, families, children and responsibilities that they have in their lives based on living in Gander. They feel very helpless being in Grand Falls-Windsor. It’s certainly not how they planned their personal lives.”
There has been compensation in place, including reimbursement for personal use of vehicles, provision of a Central Health vehicle if required, and provision of accommodations in the event of bad weather.
But Forward said that doesn’t fix the issue.
“It doesn’t really work for a single mom who might need to get home to her children at night,” she said.
According to Central Health, requiring the additional RN is about ensuring a safe level of patient care for the anticipated increase in service demand.
“When there is a need for diversions of obstetrical labour and delivery services from one regional referral site to the other, Central Health schedules a fifth OBS-trained (RN) per shift, over and above the four core RNs currently in place as part of baseline scheduling,” according to a statement issued by the health authority.
It also stated shifts are scheduled “to include travel time to respect work/life balance, utilizes casual nursing staff located in Grand Falls-Windsor, and supports collaborative approaches.”