“We have heard from health care members in multiple locations across the province about the degradation of services in their workplaces and the impact that’s having on service delivery and patient care.” — Jerry Earle, NAPE President
St. John’s (February 22, 2019) — Jerry Earle, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), is voicing his concerns about a recent trend in reports: the degradation of health care services across his province, particularly in rural regions.
“We have heard from health care members in multiple locations across the province about the degradation of services in their workplaces and the impact that’s having on service delivery and patient care,” said Earle. “From St. Anthony, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Carbonear, Grand Falls-Windsor, Bonavista, Gander, and St. John’s to name a few, we have seen stories in the media and heard from our members and the public directly about the impact that a decline in services is having on them and the services they provide or rely on.”
Closures, cutbacks and vacancies leaving workers worried, frustrated and demoralized
“In the past few weeks alone, the pathology lab in Carbonear has been shuttered. We have seen the negative impacts of staffing shortages on patients and staff in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We have heard reports of converting acute care beds to long-term care beds and other concerning proposals to structure and service delivery in St. Anthony,” said Earle. “The workers there and in many other facilities are worried, frustrated, and demoralized.”
“Just yesterday, it was brought to my attention that Audiology Services in Central Newfoundland are under immense pressure due to vacancies either not being posted or remaining unfilled for long periods of time,” said Earle. “Despite almost 700 people on a wait-list in that region for audiology services, 3 positions in that department remain vacant and one is not going to be filled when a member retires in the coming months. If something is not done to address this, one person will soon be doing the work of 5.”
“What becomes of those on the wait-list then? Will they be expected to drive to St. John’s? What happens to the one person left who is already overworked and burnt out? These are questions we need to be answered immediately — and this is just one example of many,” said Earle.
Workers doing their best to deliver top-quality health care services
“We have heard from our members across the health care spectrum about being short-staffed, overworked, having to do more with less, vacancies not being filled, and cutbacks due to budget restraints,” said Earle.
In a recent survey conducted by NAPE/NUPGE of its members, 60% of health care workers reported that their workloads had increased “a lot” in the past 5 years. 85% said that it increased a little or a lot. Approximately 30% of health care workers indicated that they found their jobs “extremely” or “very” stressful. Roughly 60% said that they have taken on more responsibilities in their jobs in the past 5 years alone.
NAPE/NUPGE sounding the alarm to stop trend before it's too late
“It’s not good enough for the people of the province who depend on vital health care services, particularly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Earle. “It’s not good enough for those who are desperately trying to do their best to deliver top-quality health care services despite the conditions they face, despite the fatigue, stress, and burnout.”
“This is what we talk about when we talk about death by a thousand cuts,” said Earle. “When services are slowly degraded, defunded, centralized, and privatized — they rarely come back,” said Earle. “We are sounding the alarm today in an effort to stop this trend before it’s too late — before a mother has to drive for 7-plus hours in the middle of February to get an audiology test for her son.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE