Nurses in central Newfoundland worried about 24-hour shifts

Nurses who work at central Newfoundland hospitals are worried they may be called to work 24-hour shifts this summer.
Debbie Forward, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union, is concerned nurses could be called on to work 24-hour shifts this summer in central Newfoundland. (CBC)

Nurses who work at central Newfoundland hospitals are worried they may be called in to work 24-hour shifts this summer.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union says Central Health is scheduling nurses to be on standby for 12-hour night shifts immediately after working 12-hour day shifts.

Union president Debbie Forward says the standby schedule would violate their contract with the government.

"We have very clear language that says no 24-hour shifts," said Forward. "I don't want my members put in the situation where they could be forced into doing that 24-hour shift. If staffing is such a crisis in Central Health, hire more registered nurses."

Nurses are also worried about putting themselves and patients at risk if they work such long shifts.

But Central Health spokesperson Trudy Stuckless says there is no shortage of nurses in the region, adding all of their core positions are filled. She said the challenge during the summer — with vacations and short-notice requests for leave — is finding enough nurses when they need them.

"Having a standby schedule guarantees that we'll be able to have access to a nurse by phone and have that nurse come to work," said Stuckless. 

"We'll have a minimum of six nurses on standby each night. This gives us a better plan that provides access to more nurses so that one nurse doesn't have to take all the responsibility."

Stuckless also said the standby schedule doesn't violate the collective agreement.

"We will not ask nurses to work 24 hours or a double shift or four consecutive eight-hour shifts," she said.