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Orangeville hospital using kitchen staff to assist with nursing shortage: union

An Orangeville hospital has issued an urgent call for help as the facility faces a major staffing shortage.

SEIU Healthcare, the union that represents 60,000 healthcare workers, tells CityNews the situation is so dire at Headwaters Health Care Centre that kitchen staff have been called in over the past 24 hours to assist nurses on inpatient floors.

“Because of the nursing shortage experienced in this hospital, like many, they are scrambling to find some way to assist registered practical nurses, particularly on the wards to try and take care of their patients,” said Sharleen Stewart, SEIU president.

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“We’ve been ringing alarm bells for years about the situation, particularly in nursing – the crisis, the government has ignored it and now hospitals are literally left on their own.”

The union says an email was sent by hospital administrators on Friday, allegedly calling for “all hands on deck,” meaning anyone in any position is being asked to help over the next three days because of a major staffing shortage.

The union says while kitchen/dietary staff have been redeployed to work with nurses on inpatient floors, this type of move can be challenging as these employees are not medically certified, or trained specifically to work in healthcare.

“Registered practical nurses are calling us and saying ‘I don’t know what to do with these people when they come,'” said Stewart. “Everybody appreciates help but its got to be the right help.”

SEIU also says paramedics have also been asked to help staff the emergency room.

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Hospital president and CEO Kim Delahunt says they hospital has been maintaining sufficient staffing levels and at no time have non-regulated employees been redeployed to provide any nursing care. Instead, they have been used to support them in other ways such as taking patients to Diagnostic Imaging or for hospital discharge. As well a dietitian has helped support feeding patients on one of the inpatient units.

“Unit managers are providing redeployed staff with a buddy to ensure there is support on the units, and there are ongoing huddles with managers to make sure everything is running well,” reads a statement provided to CityNews.

Delahunt also says that with all non-emergency surgeries and procedures on hold as per the Jan. 5 provincial directive, hospital staff in those areas have also been redeployed to units in the hospital with the highest need.

Almost five percent of the hospital staff, physicians and midwives are currently off sick or at home self-isolating due to COVID-19.