Eagle Ridge Hospital to leave dead patients in bed overnight in bizarre labour tactic
Employer's efforts to keep five security guards out of the union appear to override dignity and respect due to deceased and their families Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody has directed nursing staff to leave dead patients lying in the wards overnight, in an apparent effort to keep five security guards out of a collective agreement. In a case currently before arbitrator Don Munroe, the Hospital Employees' Union says that the five guards belong in the union since they do the same work as unionized employees. That's because previous staffing cuts have eliminated night orderlies so the guards were doing "morgue duty" - helping to transport bodies to the morgue - at night. The hospital is now trying to end that practice in order to bolster its arbitration case and keep the five out of the union and near minimum wage. The consequence is that there are still no workers to attend to deceased patients during the night shift. "It is hard to find words to describe this situation," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "Aside from the affront to the deceased patientsí families and to neighbouring patients who share the wards, one would hope that a hospital would place the dignity of patients above its tactics in an arbitration." HEU has received copies of the hospital's e-mail instructions to nurses on night duty, telling them to leave deceased patients in the beds where they died until the morning shift takes over. One e-mail message dated Nov. 4, 1999 reads, "No longer can we call on security to pick up the morgue stretcher! On nights, unless you can get help from another nursing unit, we will have to leave the body until day shift. I realize this is not the best solution." "'Not the best solution' is a gross understatement," says Allnutt. "It appears that Eagle Ridge Hospital is so fixated on a relatively minor labour relations issue that they have forgotten what they are really here for."