P.E.I. union says moving long-term care staff disrupts patients and workers

The head of the union representing some health-care staff on P.E.I. says workers are being moved from unit to unit in long-term care facilities, and that’s causing issues with both patient care and employee satisfaction.  Karen Jackson is the head of the Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE) on P.E.I., which represents licensed practical nurses, resident care workers, and patient care workers in long-term care homes. She says employers are not respecting the system set up more than a decade ago, under which employees are assigned to the same unit within a facility and can see the same patients every day. “The staff really got to know the residents and they became family,” Jackson said. “It’s very difficult to be asked to move to another unit when you haven’t been oriented to the residents that you’re going to care for.” Karen Jackson, president of the P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees, says three senior employees have resigned in the past two weeks due to the issue of staff reassignments. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)In the past two weeks, three senior employees at long-term care homes in the province have resigned due to this issue, she said. “We’re not opposed to having members reassigned when it’s necessary and when residents are at risk,” Jackson said, adding it’s something that happened frequently during the pandemic. But it’s now happening too often, she said, and her union was not consulted beforehand. That’s why UPSE proceeded into arbitration on the issue earlier this month, Jackson said.The result was an arbitrator’s order outlining a process that needs to be followed should a worker be reassigned to a new unit. Staff moved for ‘patient safety’P.E.I. Health Minister Mark McLane said this type of reassigning only happens when there are shortages in certain facilities, which is currently the case. “We want to have patient safety,” he said. “So unfortunately from time to time we may ask one of our employees to staff a different unit.” P.E.I. Health Minister Mark McLane says he had a good conversation with Jackson Thursday on about the issue of reassigning. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)McLane said it’s important that employers provide training if needed when a worker joins a new unit. “Continuity of care is very important, especially in our long term care homes,” he said. “They develop strong relationships with our health-care workforce.”  McLane said he met with Jackson on Thursday and they had a good conversation. In a statement, a Health P.E.I. spokesperson said facilities will continue to “limit reassignment times to situations when all other options to provide patient care have been exhausted.” The statement also said employees are not asked to do things outside their normal job description.

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