PEI

Resignations prompt call for answers at P.E.I. Nurses' Union 

Island nurses are calling for answers following a series of resignations and staff changes at the P.E.I. Nurses' Union.

'Differences of opinion are bound to arise,' says union president

The vice-president, treasurer and secretary all resigned days apart in mid-December leaving only Mona O'Shea, president, on the executive board. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

Island nurses are calling for answers following a series of resignations and staff changes at the P.E.I. Nurses' Union.

The vice-president, treasurer and secretary all resigned days apart in mid-December leaving only Mona O'Shea, president, on the executive board.

There has also been a turnover in two of the top jobs at the nurses union, the executive director and a communications officer. 

Nurses circulated a formal request calling for a special meeting to deal with the concerns over the resignations and staff changes.

That meeting was held Wednesday night.

More than 200 nurses were in attendance. More attended by conference call. The nurses union represents more than 1,200 nurses.

'It's really upsetting' 

Zellah Johnston, who served as secretary of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union until she resigned last month, said she had hoped some of her concerns would have been addressed during the members-only meeting. But she said nurses left the meeting feeling even more frustrated. 

Mona O'Shea is president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union. In a statement she said, 'healthy and respectful debates are par for the course.' (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"I have lost confidence in the president and the current board," said Johnston, who has been a member of the nurses union for more than four decades. 

"It's unfortunate. It's really upsetting to all of our members to feel like this is where we landed."

CBC News reached out to the two other executive members who resigned but did not receive comment. CBC News has not been able to pinpoint what issues are in dispute.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Mona O'Shea, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, said, "As a democratic organization, we understand that differences of opinion are bound to arise — that healthy and respectful debates are par for the course." 

The statement went on the say, "We will continue to find solutions to address the nursing shortage, improve workplace conditions and protect Canada's public health-care system."

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union continues to operate with an interim executive. 

'Membership is very concerned'

Andrea Greenan, an RN at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, said she shares Johnston's concerns.

"The PEINU is in chaos right now and the membership is very concerned about how well the best interest of the RNs and NPs are being represented at this level," she said.

CBC News talked to several nurses across P.E.I. who expressed similar concerns to that of Johnston and Greenan.

Health Minister James Aylward says he's not privy to any internal union issues. (Al McCormick/CBC)

CBC News also reached out to the former executive director and former communications officer. Neither wanted to do an interview. None of the current board members CBC News reached would comment.

Johnston said the next step is up to the members.

But she said the public has a reason to be concerned.

"If the nurses' office is in disarray, then the office is not able to deal effectively with the concerns of the nurses at the bedside and if nurses have concerns at the bedside then that ultimately affects patient care."

Health Minister James Aylward said he was not aware of what was happening within the nurses union. He said as a non-government organization, he would "not be privy to any internal union issues." 

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About the Author

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca