The Yukon’s nursing shortage is being made worse by the Whitehorse General Hospital’s shoddy staff relations, says the Professional Institute of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“It’s a massive mess there and people don’t realize it,” said Nao Fernando, the union’s employment relations officer.
“I’m concerned about the impact it has on the people of Whitehorse and the Yukon.
“I have been serving them for about a year now and I can see the thing getting worse by the day.”
Nurses have filed 12 grievances against the hospital. None have been settled.
Some allege human rights violations.
“There is a grievance that is going on where a person, who is a native, is being unjustly accused of things, and they’re making hell out of her life,” said Fernando.
“I tell you, I’m really disturbed by this case.”
The nurse was put on unpaid suspension until she answered several questions.
On the union’s advice, this person refused to answer the questions on the grounds the hospital had no right to ask them.
The Yukon Human Rights Commission would not say whether there were human rights violations filed against the hospital.
Another grievance is that the hospital’s health nurse quit and has yet to be replaced.
“The person who is now doing the work of the health nurse is the (Human Resources) director,” said Fernando.
That situation may compromise employee medical confidentiality, he said.
There is also concern about the hospital’s treatment of casual workers.
A quarter of the Yukon’s 293 working nurses are casuals.
These workers have certain rights under the collective agreement.
Once a nurse reaches a certain number of hours, they get a raise.
However, the collective agreement is silent as to when the casual employees go off of the list.
When a casual worker has not worked for more than six months, even if it’s due to maternity or sick leave, they are struck off the list and won’t be called back.
If the nurse wants back on the list, he or she has to start again at the first step of the salary grid.
Following two cases in which people were cut off the causal list, the hospital is saying, “you can’t come in because you are no longer casual,” said Fernando.
“That is an extremely stupid policy considering the fact that there is a shortage of nurses.”
The union is currently in negotiations with the hospital.
As a result of the nursing shortage, many nurses have to work long shifts and many overtime hours.
“They’re trying to save money on casual workers, but on the other hand they’re pouring money into overtime,” said Fernando.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
The hospital is also spending thousands and thousands of dollars on lawyers to fight the nurses’ grievances, said Fernando.
“They are more interested in sort of saying no and making use of technical grounds to fight the nurses and not tend to their grievances, disputes or complaints,” he said.
“They might win the day, but it leaves such a bad taste in the mouths of some of our members that it has a very, very negative reaction.”
The hospital’s new CEO Joe MacGillivray is doing little to rectify the problems, said Fernando.
“He doesn’t make any bloody decisions,” said Fernando.
“I’ll be brutally frank with you, a lot of people might not agree with me, I would rather have a person who makes decisions, like the previous CEO, than this CEO who allows everybody to do their own thing.”
“If you create a conducive place to work, a place where people are happy to go to work, then you will be attracting and retaining people,” said Fernando.
“Because most of these people are service oriented. They want to do their job.
“They want to nurse.”