Positive elements in Victoria’s short-term nursing steps, says HEU

News release

Union pleased $15 million patient lift fund given go ahead

The Hospital Employees’ Union says there are a number of positive elements in the $21.3 million nursing strategy measures announced today by health planning minister Sindi Hawkins and advanced education minister Shirley Bond.

“Obviously we’ll have to look at the fine print and background documents that were presented at today’s cabinet meeting,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “But our view is a number of positive initiatives were unveiled to address the nursing shortage through greater utilization of other nursing professionals like Licensed Practical Nurses and Care Aides.”

Allnutt says his union, which represents about 15,000 LPNs and Care Aides, is particularly pleased the Campbell government has given the go ahead for the $15 million patient lift fund designed to reduce the high injury rates for health care providers. “We’ve fought for several years for the creation of such a fund,” says Allnutt, “and made headway this past spring when we reached consensus with employers and government officials that a patient lift fund should be a top government priority.

“The fund will make a real difference at the bedside for Care Aides, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses,” says Allnutt. “It will also save millions of dollars in the long run by reducing injury rates.”

Allnutt says the 99 new educational seats for LPNs and Care Aides that will be offered in January 2002, continues a positive trend that’s seen training spaces for these health care providers increased significantly over the past two years. He also pointed to a series of measures that HEU has lobbied for to better utilize the skills and capabilities of foreign-trained nurses already working in B.C.’s health system but not in nursing positions, as being long overdue.

“The measures announced today take some small steps to help ease the nursing shortage,” says Allnutt. “But more still needs to be done, especially to overcome the bias built into the health system against greater utilization of LPNs and Care Aides.”

And Allnutt says he’s worried that these and other Liberal health care initiatives may not be sustainable over the long run due to the pressure put on provincial revenues because of the Liberal’s deep tax cuts.