Headwaters Hospital denies SIEU’s claims about kitchen staff working with nurses

January 27, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Headwaters Health Care Centre and a union representing thousands of health care workers in the province are at odds after claims of a staffing shortage at the local hospital arose ahead of last weekend.

On Jan. 21, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reported a potential staff shortage at the Orangeville-based hospital after obtaining an email calling for “urgent staffing needs” over the three day span of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, said to deal with the shortage kitchen and dietary staff were being redeployed to assist the nursing staff.

“They were asked to assist the nursing staff where possible,” Stewart told the Free Press. “What was reported to me by a registered practical nurse is that ‘while they appreciate the additional hands, they’re not the right hands’. What they need is for more registered practical nurses to be on the floors with them, not dietary aids.”

Stewart said this is an example of the nursing crisis that has existed since before the pandemic and is occurring across the province.

“Nurses are asked to take on a workload that is and has become unbearable,” said Stewart. “They don’t have enough RPMs on each shift to be able to adequately provide the care that’s needed for the patients and then the patients suffer.”

Kim Delahunt, president and CEO of Headwaters Health Care Centre, issued a statement on Monday (Jan. 24) regarding the SEIU claims, calling them “baseless”.

“We are very disappointed that SEIU has created a false narrative at the expense of the hospital and our hard-working staff, who have given everything they have over the past 22 months in the service of their community,” wrote Delahunt. “At no time have non-clinical staff been asked to nor have they carried out any patient care duties.”

“To be clear, only trained health care professional provide patient care at Headwaters Health Care Centre, regardless of external of internal circumstance,” she added.

Delahunt, in the public message, noted that they are aware of at least one patient who expressed hesitation at being transferred by ambulance to the Headwater’s emergency department due to the SEIU’s allegations.

“Inaccurate information in the media as a result of SEIU’s claim has consequences,” said Delahunt.

Despite the message from Delahunt, Stewart said she stands by what she said.

The Shelburne Free Press reached out to Headwaters Hospital for further comment on the allegations from SEIU.

In an email, Delahunt reiterated that that there was never a request for non-clinical staff to preform clinical duties. She said non-clinical staff help alleviate duties that would otherwise fall on clinical teams such as an example of a non-clinical staff member who is redeployed helping with transporting  patients from a unit to diagnostic imaging.

When questioned about the Jan. 21 email requesting “urgent staffing needs”, Delahunt said it is common for shifts to be available for staff to pick up. Adding, that the approach requesting additional support over the three day was “a proactive approach we took, in anticipation of higher than normal patient volumes and the potential for increased sick calls”.

In a memo released on Jan. 22, Delahunt said 4.8 per cent of the hospital’s 925 staff, physicians and midwives were off sick or at home self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Speaking to the Jan. 21 HHCC email calling for staffing, Stewart said the SEIU almost 100 per cent of the time sees calls like this as examples of staff shortages.

“From their memo, which says ‘urgent staffing needs’, well that clearly states a staffing shortage to me,” said Stewart.

She said the SEIU has been calling on the Premier and the Ontario government to come up with a health human resources plan to be implemented immediately to help with the nursing crisis.

“We need a plant to deal with the crisis immediately. Not a plan to deal with this in the future because in the future we’ll need to start dealing with the backlog that’s happening from people’s surgeries and procedures being postponed,” said Stewart.

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