Windsor

Windsor Regional Hospital nursing change will save money, won't boost care, expert says

A nursing expert says a move to trim the number of registered nurses at Windsor Regional Hospital may help cut costs, but it won't boost quality of care for patients.
Deborah Kane, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Windsor, said registered nurses — or RNs — have a higher level of education that allows them to keep a close watch on patients and pick up on subtle signs of trouble. (University of Windsor)

A nursing expert says a move to trim the number of registered nurses at Windsor Regional Hospital may help cut costs, but it won't boost quality of care for patients.

The hospital announced Tuesday it is grappling with a $20-million shortfall in its budget, which has prompted it to make plans to reduce staffing numbers.

About 120 registered nurse positions will be eliminated in these cuts, though the hospital will also be hiring about 80 registered practical nurses.

Deborah Kane, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Windsor, said registered nurses — or RNs — have a higher level of education that allows them to keep a close watch on patients and pick up on subtle signs of trouble.

"It is that four years of education that prepares them to do the critical thinking, the assessments, the follow-through of care," Kane told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in a telephone interview.

Kane said registered practical nurses — also known as RPNs — have a two-year degree.

"They are truly important and needed in the mix of care of our health-care profession and the care that we give to patients, but to suggest that there will be no change in care because it's still a nurse totally ignores the fact that there is a difference between an RN and an RPN," she said.

Kane said the rationale the hospital has put forward for making changes to its mix of RNs and RPNs is based on cost constraints.

"When you say that you are cutting RNs in order to save money, that's not saying we're cutting RNs because we know that RPNs can give just as good care," she said.

In terms of the changes coming to the Windsor hospital, Kane said administrators are simply dealing with funding issues that are beyond their control.

"This is about how the money is allocated. I think Windsor Regional is doing the best they can with the money that they're given," she said.

Hospital CEO David Musyj said Tuesday the hospital is simply " standardizing operations" of the Windsor Regional Hospital Met Campus and Oullette Campus.

"Whether we move to a new hospital facility or not, we've got to standardize between the two campuses. So we're either going all RN or we're going to this mixed model," he said. "So we examined it and went to the mixed model. By doing so the quality outcomes are not diminished [and] No. 2, we're able to save patient services by doing so."

Musyj claimed Tuesday that the Met Campus was unique in not having any RPNs.

"The number of all-RN hospitals has diminished drastically in Ontario, to the point we're the only one left," he claimed. "So, what we're looking at is how can we compare ourselves to our peers?

"We looked at every single peer of similar size and nature and examined their staffing ratio and staffing mix, floor by floor, shift by shift, and we were the outlier."

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