March 6, 2017

Creating Safe RN Staffing

“It is a priority for us to work with your group, to improve the lives of registered nurses. No matter where I go, I have many friends that work in health care and they’re telling me about how desperate things would be, about working extended shifts, 24 hours, on-call, so we need to deliver health care in a better way that we can help alleviate that pressure.”

These are the words of Premier Dwight Ball speaking at our RNU Election Panel just over a year ago.

Premier, it’s time to hold true to your word. It’s time for real strategies that improve the system rather than inefficient, non-solutions that don’t work for RNs or our patients. We’ve been relying on what I call duct tape solutions for too long.

Duct tape solutions like choosing not to replace like with like, or requiring overtime to address staffing shortfalls. Every day, we see duct tape solutions like not replacing the first sick call and forcing RNs to work short staffed. This leads to high rates of absenteeism, high sick leave, and burnout. It’s a dangerous cycle.

RNU is willing to work with the premier, government and employers to build sustainable health care, but it has to be a system that supports and values our work and our patients.

We believe a critical step in building this system is the completion of a core staffing review.

A core staffing review will examine the number and type of health care providers, who are currently working in the system. The last review was done in the late ‘90s. Since then we have seen increases in patient acuity, complexity, shorter hospital stays, and advances in diagnostics and treatments. Demands have gone up and staffing levels have not kept up with demand.

A staffing review will help determine whether or not we have the right number of people to provide care. It’s a critical first step in creating safe RN staffing.

As we approach another budget and prepare to return to bargaining later this year, we’re committed to holding Premier Ball true to his word to work with RNU to “deliver health care in a better way.”

Because let’s be clear, reducing health care costs by cutting RN positions is not the way forward. It is not on for RNs and it is not on for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, in our most recent survey, 94% of the people in our province are opposed to government eliminating registered nurse positions as a cost saving measure.

But we know challenging times are coming. Like you, we’ve heard the rumours. Claw backs, wage freezes, benefit reductions and so on. Could they really expect RNs to do more, with less, for less? I am telling government that this is not up for negotiation. Our way forward is not to go backwards.

And this is not Debbie Forward’s position. This is the emphatic position of registered nurses. Our research is clear. Our members are not prepared to negotiate wage rollbacks or a slash and burn of our benefits.

When I spoke about this at our conventionin October, I said RNU was drawing not one, but TWO lines in the sand.


RNU will fight any reduction of RN positions that will have a negative impact on the people we care for or the health and safety of our members.


RNU will fight any attempt by government to impose a collective agreement that will force RNs to work with less, for less. We will not accept wage rollbacks or a slash and burn of our benefits.

How will we do this?

We will do it by continuing to do what we do best. We will do it by standing together, not just with each other, but with the people of the province. We did this in 1999 and again in 2008. We have fought many battles in between.

I am ready for our next fight. And I know you are ready too.