Health PEI ill-prepared for storms, say nurses

Nurses are complaining Health PEI could do more to ensure staff are well rested during winter storms when travel to and from work is difficult.

Nurses working long shifts without relief during storms

Nurses are complaining Health PEI could do more to ensure staff are well rested during winter storms when travel to and from work is difficult.

The P.E.I. Nurses Union intends to raise the issue of staffing during storms with Health PEI, says president Mona O'Shea.

"You see as the day progresses that staff are tiring out," said retired registered nurse Beth Nichol, describing the scene at the Prince Edward Home Monday.

"I have never seen a storm go over well in the fact that the facility is actually prepared, or the administration has done anything to help out the staff."

Nichol said she was called in to work at the nursing home to relieve some staff working double or triple shifts because others didn't make it in for their shift in the midst of the storm.

Nichol questions why Health PEI doesn't bring in new staff before the wind and snow hits.

Denise Lewis Fleming, acting CEO of Health PEI, said many staff do choose to come in early and stay late if the need is there, but she said managers can't force them.

"We have to respect collective agreements," said Lewis Fleming.

"We can't make staff come into work earlier, nor can we make them stay after their shifts."

Nichol said the issue is not just with nursing staff. She said managers often don't make arrangements so they're at work during storms, leaving already busy registered nurses to coordinate schedules and supervise facilities.

Lewis Fleming said managers do their best to be on site and if they can't be stay in regular contact with staff who are there.

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union says there should be more support from managers during storms.

"The nurses are working sometimes 24 hours at a shift, trying to grab four or five hours sleep, and then right back at it again," said union president Mona O'Shea.

"Sometimes this winter it's been 48 hours before they've seen any relief in these buildings.  So it's becoming very frustrating for the nurses working."

The union plans to raise the issue with Health PEI.


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