By Linda Kelly
I have been following the debates on the hospital situation in Muskoka and I would like to comment from a personal perspective.
Having worked in Huntsville’s ICU for 17 years, I have seen many changes in staffing, management and policies. I have witnessed efforts to conserve supplies and improve work environments, update essential equipment, and the ‘tightening up’ on use of bed spaces. Staff sick time, absenteeism and modified return-to-work issues have been aggressively monitored and enforced. I cannot address lay-offs, but I know some have happened at both sites.
When it comes to nursing, Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) are cheaper to employ and it seems that Registered Nursing (RN) positions, both full-time and part-time, are the first to be eliminated. To my knowledge, there are no PSWs (Personal Support Workers – think ‘Nurse’s Aides’) to assist with things like bathing, feeding, mobilizing and generally helping nurses with answering call bells and cleaning patients who are incontinent as well as feeding those patients who need help eating. If any money could be found to hire PSWs that would be a huge support to all nurses.
Family members give as much time as they possibly can. But the people whose job it is to care for these ill members of our community, 24/7, are stretched to their limits.
Nursing levels are stretched to the limit
If one staff member doesn’t show up, ill themselves or with a sick child and no other option but to stay home, it can impact the entire staffing for that shift! Also, we have just a few nurses trained for delivering babies. Not many people realize this, but if a labouring woman comes in, that RN must disperse her patient-assignments to others, and attend solely to the obstetric patient. You can give “kudos” all day long to these nurses but the fact is, ALL of our nurses are stressed to their limits, especially when any of these scenarios occur.
We all have families and bills to pay. We do LOVE our chosen profession; have no doubt. But if, for a moment, you think our nurses are overpaid, or expendable… think long and hard, again.
What will happen if we end up with one hospital situated in Bracebridge?
I’ve worked in critical care for 35 years with no regrets. But I’m worried now. Will having one hospital in Bracebridge be okay? It appears that might be where this is going. Can the labouring woman make it there in time? Can the asthmatic child hang in for the 40-minute ride? Can a trauma from a car wreck be stabilized in Huntsville, in time for surgery in Bracebridge, after a 40-minute ambulance ride? What about a burst bowel or appendicitis?
Does the hospital administration think or care about these lives?
What about all people north of Huntsville, like Kearney, South River and Sprucedale? How would this affect them?
Not willing to do nothing
Yeah, I’m very worried. But I’m just one little voice. I might even get some criticism for putting my thoughts out here. Somebody might tell me to keep my mouth shut … That’s okay. I’m not a big activist. But I’m not a sheep either!
Linda Kelly began working in the Intensive Care Unit at the Huntsville Hospital in 1998. She was born in the US Midwest and met her husband, a native of Huntsville, while in Acapulco on vacation. They married in 1998 and Linda became a Landed Immigrant. Linda calls Huntsville home and says, “I love living in Canada and I love this community.”
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