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HSN workers rally for a stop to hospital cuts

Morale is down among HSN front-line workers, says OCHU secretary treasurer

A handful of HSN employees braved some inclement weather on Tuesday as they rallied along Paris Street to send a message to Premier Doug Ford that Sudbury's hospital is not being properly funded.

The hospital has seen the reduction and elimination of a number of front-line jobs.

"Should the cuts to more than 100 full-time equivalent positions proceed, patients will be left with less staff to assist them and provide care. And the staff who remain will be scrambling with additional duties on top of their already heavy workloads trying to provide care to a higher number of patients,” said Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

"Since March of this year, between the Ontario Nurses Association and CUPE, we've been through about 113 to 120 eliminations," said Dave Shelefontiuk, CUPE 1623 president. 

"At CUPE it hasn't so much been layoffs, but elimination of jobs and reassignments. When positions are being eliminated, the work is still there, so someone has to pick up that work. For example, in support services we have five-hour shifts now to do a job that would normally take seven and a half hours."

Support services represents anything from cleaning staff, laundry, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers; the nuts and bolts that keep the hospital clean and functioning. CUPE also represents registered practical nurses and personal support workers, but the bulk of their members are clerical and support staff at HSN.

"We're basically anything besides the paramedical and registered nurses," said Shelefontiuk.

With cutbacks to positions on the front lines, Shelefontiuk says it becomes a slippery slope and conditions at Health Sciences North are liable to slip, at a hospital that is already dealing with issues of overcrowding and more often than not is operating at 100 per cent capacity.

"You can see directly and you can ask any patient that's been in there, the hospital is no longer clean," said Shelefontiuk. "It's clean to a standard but not to a hospital clean standard. You're going to have an increase in infections, you're going to have an increased workload which is going to mean more injuries, and now the flu season is in full bloom."

Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), stood out in the rain on Wednesday and said that Sudbury is definitely getting the short end of the stick when it comes to hospital funding in Northern Ontario.

"You see the government funding Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay and they're getting more beds than Sudbury, why is that? Because they have Progressive Conservative governments in those cities," said Richer.

"This hospital is only receiving eight beds, it's not enough. HSN is a referral centre for the north, our population is greater than North Bay and the Sault, why wouldn't we get more beds?"

Adding more beds at Health Sciences North is only a small drop in the bucket when it comes to improving levels of care at the hospital, as without staff to clean and maintain these beds, the battle is always going to be an uphill one.

"The hospital is reporting being over 100 per cent capacity, we absolutely need staff to look after those beds," said Richer. "Regardless if it's nursing staff, dietary, housekeeping, people in the OR that clean the instruments, clerical staff, there definitely needs to be staff because we bring in more patients."

Front line staff at the hospital are being stretched thin and morale is down among workers, says Richer, as many workers are doing more than one job and are constantly being asked to do more with less.

"They're going home with sore feet and sore backs and a really heavy heart because they want to provide the excellent care that this hospital is demanding of them and they feel like they're falling short of that," said Richer.

"I know that some of them are asking the same question of 'what more do you want me to do?' It's the people that are behind the scenes, the housekeeper who is trying to keep everything clean, or the dietary who is trying to make up extra trays because we have people in lounges. It puts a lot of stress on them."


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