Staffing changes at Covenant Health likely to have harmful impact on safety and care

Staffing changes announced today by Covenant Health at three Edmonton-area seniors’ facilities are likely to have a negative impact on patient safety and the quality of patient care, United Nurses of Alberta warns.

The “realignment” announced in a Covenant Health news release amounts to significant staffing cuts combined with potentially detrimental changes to staffing mix at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre, St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital in Edmonton and Youville Home in St. Albert.

But while the news release said “the primary changes will be to staff rotations of Licensed Practical Nurses, health care aides and therapeutic staff,” UNA understands that the changes will result in the loss of six Registered Nursing positions, said First Vice-President Jane Sustrik. 

“This announcement portrays the changes as a benefit to residents, but it is hard to see how staff cuts and reductions in regulated nursing professionals in front-line care settings will benefit anyone,” Sustrik said.

“It is misleading to portray cost-cutting that has an impact on the availability of front-line medical staff for patients and residents as an aid to sustainability, and it is troubling that this is happening now at a time the Alberta government has repeatedly claimed seniors’ care is a priority,” Sustrik said.

Today’s statement by Covenant Health Senior Operating Office Scott Baerg said the changes will affect 650 staff members at the three facilities, resulting in a combined reduction of five full-time equivalent nursing and therapeutic staff positions.

However, UNA has been informed by Covenant Health that 16 Registered Nurses will have their positions eliminated at the Grey Nun’s Hospital, Misericordia Hospital and Villa Caritas.

Moreover, Sustrik said, Covenant Health’s backgrounder illustrates how the impact will be far more serious than the loss of five positions across three large seniors’ care sites, since that change alone could not add up to $1.4 million in savings Covenant says it anticipates.

UNA will be seeking an explanation and up-to-date information from Covenant Health on these changes, said Sustrik.

“We will continue to make it clear that as front-line health care professionals, we do not believe such workforce redesigns or realignments are likely to have a positive impact on patient care or safety,” Sustrik concluded.