Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Alberta Disadvantage

As the province rolls about in surplus cash, we still face a crisis in our medical and long term care facilities. Health Care Reform begins with replacing the cuts in beds and staffing that have occured in this province since the bad old days of 1995. And this is not just a provincial problem but another Federal Conservative broken promise; wait times.

Nurses are being physically abused and verbally threatened because of staff and bed shortages in Calgary hospitals, say leaders with the United Nurses of Alberta.

Patients who face longer wait times in emergency rooms, and lack privacy and beds for treatment are taking out their frustrations on nurses more than ever, health-care workers say.

Documented cases in which nurses have reported unsafe working conditions have jumped significantly over the last year at Foothills, Peter Lougheed Centre, Rockyview and Alberta Children's Hospital.

"Nurse abuse is huge. It's huge in the emergency room, it's huge in the psych units, it's rising all over the hospital," says Tanice Olson, a day surgery nurse at the Peter Lougheed and second vice-president for UNA Local 1.

"Patients are attacking nurses. They're hitting them, they're scratching them, they're throwing phones at them.

"Everything is backed up. We're short of beds. People are waiting longer for care. And the longer they wait, the more anxious and frustrated they become."

Statistics from the Professional Responsibility Committee, a health-care group that includes union and management representatives, show incidents in which nurses reported unsafe working conditions are clearly on the rise.

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