The Nova Scotia Health Authority says a rising number of nursing vacancies at the East Coast Forensic Hospital has led to “intensive recruitment” of nurses from other units who don’t necessarily have experience in forensics.
“It is normal practice within NSHA for nurses to work or help out in another area when there are high levels of vacancies, but we would always orient our nurses before putting them into independent frontline care role,” said Rachel Boehm, the NSHA central zone director of mental health and addictions.
In recent years, the patient load at the East Coast Forensic Hospital has increased, leading to challenges with managing the rising number of offenders with mental illnesses in need of care. “We’ve had some capacity issues at Mentally Ill Offender Unit lately that we’ve been responding to, and what we do is we meet every day to look at the bed situation and we do have flexibility within our facility to use other beds when we do have capacity issues,” Boehm said.
Boehm says that for nurses seeking overtime shifts at the facility, preference has been given to those who have casual experience picking up shifts there before.
“We did put a call out to the program within mental health and addictions to see if we could bolster our casual roster,” she said.
The patients in the East Coast Forensic Hospital are ordered there by the courts. Many of them have committed crimes but were found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders.
Boehm says providing healthcare for offenders with mental illnesses can come with unique challenges and safety risks that may increase in the face of a nursing shortage.
“If you had to operate without appropriate staffing levels, there is a risk, and that was our concern. We were managing to fill all of our vacancies but we’re doing it with overtime and know that sustained overtime over a long period of time isn’t good for our nursing workforce,” she said.
NSHA spokesperson Carla Adams wrote in an email that “the collective agreements have always had language that stated that overtime was paid for extra hours ‘worked.’ That has not changed. NSHA, as the employer, gave notice that we intended to implement the language in the agreements.”
Regardless of the interpretation, the change in overtime is being felt by managers and employees.
“It’s a different approach, different guidelines to how we call in overtime. So, there has been a learning curve for the staff and the managers,” Boehm said.
NSHA says a significant amount of recruiting work has gone into avoiding future staffing challenges at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, including the hiring of upwards of 15 nurses since June 2018.
Source: global news
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