Residents and staff alarmed by impending changes at Youville

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Thirty-eight full-time equivalent positions will be cut at Youville Home in St. Albert as part of staffing realignment, says a representative from the United Steelworkers.

All health care aide and licensed practical nurse (LPN) positions have been downgraded to 0.7 or 0.8 full-time equivalents, except for one, says Ray White president of the local bargaining agent for health-care aides and LPNs.

“It’s not something a compassionate, faith-based employer should be doing to their employees,” he says.

Covenant Health announced the staffing realignment late November.

Across three sites and 650 staff at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre, St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital and Youville Home, there will be a net reduction of five full-time equivalent nursing and therapeutic staff.

Primary changes will be to the staff rotations of health care aides and LPNs.

Around 174 staff at Youville will be impacted by the changes – a 2.65 full-time equivalent staff reduction, says Covenant Health.

White is skeptical of that number.

He says all employees have received a position elimination letter. Dependent on their seniority, they bid into their new positions starting Wednesday.

“Some people have worked there between 20 and 30 years, most of those folks hold the full-time equivalents. The 38 people that are getting bumped have dedicated their working life to that building,” says White.

Under the new rotations, hours and days off are unpredictable making it hard for staff to pick up or hold down a second part-time job, says White.

“These people are very upset. They don’t like what’s happening. They want us to stop it and we can’t.”

Care at risk

Staff fears have spread to residents at Youville Home.

“I know the staff is worried because all of them have been here quite a few years and now they are sort of stuck with fewer hours,” says Youville resident Florence Patrick.

Although relatively independent, Patrick requires help to get dressed in the mornings before breakfast. Aides are already few and far between, she says.

“It makes it rough. You have to be patient and wait … until someone is free.”

Aid in the morning has been inconsistent, reiterates Patrick’s daughter Lisa Babiuk. She says management has been open to hearing resident and family input, but what concerns her is how fewer staff will be able to manage the same workload.

That is also an issue employees are confused about, says White.

Changes to staff rotations are part of a “culture change” in long-term care towards a patient-centred care model to provide more individualized care, representatives from Youville said in previous interviews with the Gazette.

The changes will also allow staff to work to its full scope of practice.

Critics have voiced concern the realignment will have a negative impact on patient safety and will lead to fragmented patient care.

The United Nurses of Alberta say changes will result in the elimination of at least six registered nursing positions across the three sites.

The realignment is projected to save Covenant Health an estimated $1.4 million.

“These wholesale changes are about saving money and I would question if they’re about anything else,” says White.

Short staffing has been one of the steadiest complaints coming out of Youville, he says. The last time staff changes of this magnitude took place was in 2009, when 20 full-time equivalent positions were eliminated.

The implementation of the realignment will take place March 27, 2015.

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