Amidst a three-year program to reduce their nursing positions, the Rouge Valley Health System is now hiring new nurses.
And though that might seem to be working at cross-purposes, two job fairs this month to attract prospective nurses actually makes sense, according to hospital officials.
“We still have needs in particular areas of the hospital, including in the emergency department,” Rouge Valley spokesperson David Brazeau says. “If we have nurses with the skills to transfer to those areas, then that’s what we can do.
“But if we can’t fit those needs, then we are hiring.”
Rouge Valley also intends to eliminate 220 nursing positions over the next three years as part of their plan to reduce their deficit.
Back in June, 47 nurses were laid off from the Ajax location as its in-patient mental health facilities shut down and moved to east Scarborough’s Centenary campus.
“These layoffs, then hirings, don’t send a good message to nurses,” says Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
“At the end of the day, the nurses are saying, just as an example, ‘If I get hired tomorrow, I could get fired just as easily’.”
Brazeau says closing the mental health facilities at Ajax saved the hospital $600,000 a year by keeping all of its in-patient mental health care in one place.
As for the three-year plan, he stresses the hospital is reducing 220 positions, not 220 people. He says much of these decreases will be done through early retirement and people naturally leaving their jobs.
Even so, Haslam-Stroud says it doesn’t send a positive message.
“It’s a huge upheaval for the nurses working at Rouge Valley, and the impact on the morale is a huge concern,” she says.
According to Haslam-Stroud, hospitals across the province are reducing registered nursing hours, but not to the extent of Rouge Valley.
“Seventy per cent of hospitals in Ontario are budget balancing, but to get into that much debt – it shows a lack of leadership at the hospital.”
She claims reducing the number of nurses also reduces patient care.
“With every [registered nurse] reduced, it has been shown that mortality and disease rates increase.”
Despite the planned nursing reductions, Brazeau says the hospital is improving. Looking specifically at Centenary, he points to their new birthing centre and mental health housing and clinic as examples.
“We have a renewed drive to improve our quality. We want to go from average to above average,” he says.
And about the new hirings, he says the job fairs brought out a good number of prospective nurses.
“We’re getting a good response,” he says. “People are quite interested in being a part of what we’re doing.”
According to Brazeau, the hiring process is still finishing up. He says at this point, it has yet to be determined exactly how many new nurses will soon be working at Rouge Valley.