New deal brings new patient safety risks

Nathan Liewicki
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Zambory critical of registered nurse cuts

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is changing its model of care – at the expense of registered nurses (RNs).

On July 10, it was announced that members of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) working at the province’s CBS facilities had voted 89 per cent in favour of a new collective bargaining agreement. That agreement, according to SUN President Tracy Zambory, includes CBS moving away from having RNs play “integral roles inside their organization.

“We just feel that it's very important to have registered nurses as the touch points every time someone enters into the health care system, especially when we are collecting blood across Canada.”

Zambory added that SUN pushed to have the number of RNs remain unchanged. Instead, the new contract decreased the number of RNs – although she didn’t know the exact extent of those cuts.

She said the loss of any RN could have a direct impact on patient safety.

“The more registered nurses there are in the system, research and evidence proves very clearly, the more likely there is to be positive patient outcomes,” said Zambory. “When you pull registered nurses out of the system, research and evidence also shows there is going to be a negative impact on patient safety.”

What those impacts are, are multiple, says Zambory.

Referencing the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System of Canada, otherwise known as the Krever Inquiry, which was established by the Canadian Government in 1993, Zambory noted that vigilant oversight in the collection of blood is crucial.

She explained that when RNs are removed from the process of collecting blood, there is a greater potential for that oversight to be as precise as it could be.

“The Donor Care Associates – albeit for sure they are well intentioned people – are people that are off the street,” said Zambory. “Registered nurses are educated professionals.”

The Times-Herald reached out to the CBS for comment on why they decided to cut the number of RNs at Saskatchewan facilities. We received a statement in an email that didn’t answer our questions.

Courtesy Kristina Guénette, director of communications for CBS, the email reads: “Canadian Blood Services is pleased with the ratified agreement with the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. Nurses are valued leaders in our clinics and we want to provide nurses with opportunities that better align with their expertise. As always, safety is our top priority.”

Contained within the new contract – the last one expired on Mar. 31, 2012 – are improvements to universal benefits, a two per cent lump sum retroactive payment and additional wage increases.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.

Organizations: CBS, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, Royal Commission of Inquiry Blood System of Canada Canadian Government Donor Care Associates The Times-Herald Blood Services

Geographic location: Canada, Saskatchewan

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