Health minister Doug Currie says a reduction of eight Registered Nurses (RN) positions at Beach Grove Home in Charlottetown is simply another step in realigning P.E.I.'s health care system towards a collaborative model.
Currie said the province has not been cutting but "re-deploying" RN positions at designated long-term care facilities which are deemed surplus. The move is part of a third and final stage in the province-wide implementation of a collaborative health care model.
The shift will allow the health department to use "front line resources to their full scope," and falls in line with staffing models in other provinces, said Currie.
"I certainly value the role of the RN in our health care system, they play a vital role," he said.
However, he added there are RN vacancies within the system that have to be filled.
"They are the most highly trained so they're being re-deployed to some of the large facilities that are dealing with higher volumes of acuteness."
In essence, health care workers are being shifted to where their training and skills are better-suited.
"We were rolling along in a system that provided a level of care that wasn't fully utilizing its mix of health care professionals," Currie said on the previous system.
Currie was responding to a P.E.I. Nurse's Union (PEINU) release Friday that expressed concerns over the reduction in RN positions at P.E.I.'s largest provincial manor.
"One cannot help but wonder whether the decrease in nursing positions will negatively impact the quality of care for residents at the manor, " said union president Mona O'Shea, adding that the new model has seen a total of 30 RN positions lost from the front lines of provincial manors. "The employer continues to ignore research which proves that the quality of care is negatively impacted when RN positions are cut."
However, the shift of health care workers is nothing new to the union, said Currie.
"We've got contractual memorandums in place with the PEINU and CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) and those are being respected as we continue to roll out our collaborative model of care," he said.
While RN positions are being realigned, so to are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), and Resident Care Workers (RCW).
RCW's are restricted in scope compared to an LPN, which is then restricted when compared to an RN.
"So while there may be less of one profession, they would be replaced at the facility with more of another position," said Currie. "We'll see a substantial increase in the number of RCWs. I believe approximately 17 positions at Beach Grove Home."
This would allow RNs and LPNs to work within their full scope, while also allowing RCWs to provide the roles required in long-term care facilities.
Currie added that moving into the model of care does not decrease health care, but would actually increase bedside hours by approximately 80,000 hours a year.
"That certainly provides better access for health professionals in our system," said Currie. "It really is all about the patient in the bed."
The new model of care has been implemented in all community hospital with the exception of Western Hospital in Alberton.
The Prince Edward Home and Beach Grove Home are the final public long-term care facilities part of the implementation.
The province is set to reach full implementation of a collaborative health care model by April 2014.