Nurses at Seven Oaks General Hospital say they feel slighted by a unilateral decision to extend most shifts by four hours once the emergency department at the Winnipeg hospital closes in September.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is offering new 12-hour staff rotations, rather than the usual eight-hour window.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said the move is another blow to nurses already burned out by an overhaul of Winnipeg’s health-care system that’s left them under-resourced and overstressed.
“I’m hearing a lot of angst over that and a lot of anxiety from nurses,” she said.
To prepare for the reorganization at Seven Oaks, 237 nurses received deletion notices for their current positions last week. That means their jobs are being cut, but they can apply for the new positions needed at an urgent care centre.
The health-care professionals have since discovered that many of the new positions will be 50 per cent longer than the shifts they currently work.
While some nurses would prefer longer shifts, others organize their eight-hour workday around family commitments like child care and sporting events, Jackson said.
“We know that in the nursing shortage, everyone’s workload increases,” she said. “And for some nurses, eight hours is about all they want.”
The decision to extend hours comes as the northwest Winnipeg hospital prepares to convert its emergency department into a urgent care centre this fall, part of the second phase of the health-care overhaul the province began in 2017.
That included the ongoing plan to cut Winnipeg’s six emergency rooms down to three in order to reduce wait times and find efficiencies.
Victoria General Hospital’s ER became an urgent care centre in 2017. Concordia Hospital’s ER was converted earlier this month.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a statement the new shift patterns at Seven Oaks have been determined by weighing patient activity, staffing levels and the allocated funding.
“Management makes every effort to incorporate the feedback received and create rotations which balance operational needs and patient care and the preferences of staff,” the health authority said.
The nurses union has been asking the health authority to reconsider, Jackson said.
“We can’t afford to have nurses leaving this system because of the length of a shift,” she said.
“The government created this mess, and they need to work with nurses to try and keep this running and to keep nurses in this system.”
She did not know if the extended shifts have anything to do with the increase in overtime for nurses reported throughout Winnipeg’s hospital system since the health-care changes started, but said she’d be disappointed if that was the case.
More than 400 workers have received deletion notices in the lead up to Seven Oaks’ transformation into an urgent care centre.
Support workers at the hospital have also cried foul over the planned elimination of full-time work for 32 employees. Those employees will be offered part-time positions.