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Patient plays greater role in The Fifth Estate series than in the health system

April 15, 2013, Ottawa — No surprises here. The results of CBC’s The Fifth Estate “Rate My Hospital” series echo what the health-care community has been saying for decades. What is now needed but has yet to happen is fundamental change and a collective effort at the system, provider and bedside levels.

“Nurses care deeply about the quality of their care and the health and safety of their patients,” said Barb Mildon, Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) president. “This series shows nurses are concerned with their ability to provide that safe and competent care in today’s workplace. And their workplace situation is a microcosm of what is happening with many different provider groups in all care settings. For the sake of the patients, action must be taken on all fronts.”

About 60 per cent of registered nurses (RNs) who responded to CBC’s online survey said there was not enough staff for them to properly do their jobs. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they suffered from a high degree of burn out. Many of the problems hospitals face are the result of our overreliance on the already overburdened hospital system.

The first step in fundamental transformation is to look outside the hospital for solutions. Expanding support and resources to community health centres, nurse practitioner-led clinics and home care will help relieve the backlog of hospital patients, allow RNs and other care providers to focus on the serious and complex hospital cases, and ultimately, help Canadians access the care they need.

“Governments and hospital administrators are constantly asking nurses to do more with less — less budget, less staff and fewer supplies even,” said Linda Silas, Canadian Federation of Nurses Union (CFNU) president. “They too have a responsibility to address and resolve problems when the quality of care we can provide to patients suffers. They must make allies of nurses — the largest group of health-care providers and the best frontline resource — because we are a voice for patients with insights into the issues and ideas for the solutions.”

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the number of RNs in management positions has been on the decline since 2010. This decline is especially concerning given the fear voiced by nurses during The Fifth Estate’s program. Some respondents feared reprimand, bullying and even job loss for speaking out against employers. An essential next step in transformation is for employers to foster an environment where nurses feel comfortable bringing forth problems, since that would give them a chance to offer solutions.

“Individual RNs are leading change every day in their own workplaces, yet without a voice at management levels or in government policy it’s very difficult to effect wide-reaching change,” said Mildon. “Pockets of success are encouraging, but Canadians will continue to face inequities in care until we transform the kind of local innovations nurses can provide into national solutions.”

“I sincerely hope the federal government paid close attention to this series,” said Silas. “Canada’s health-care system is lacking leadership from the current government, and Canadians are being put at risk. When the health and safety of our nation is at stake, they must take an active role in health.

CNA and CFNU are determined to ensure that The Fifth Estate’s series will reignite important discussions and compel governments, providers and Canadians to work together for change. Further, both organizations ask that the CBC’s complete research be made publicly available so it can be examined against other data, such as overtime hours, part-time and casual employment rates and staffing levels.

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing nearly 150,000 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded not-for-profit health system.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) represents close to 200,000 nurses and student nurses. Our members work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, community health care, and our homes. The CFNU speaks to all levels of government, other health care stakeholders and the public about evidence-based policy options to improve patient care, working conditions and our public health care system.

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For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Kate Headley
External Communications Coordinator 
Canadian Nurses Association 
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561 | 1-800-361-8404
Cell: 613-697-7507 
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca

Linda Silas
President
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Telephone: 613-526-4661 | 1-800-321-9821
Cell: 613-859-4314
E-mail: lsilas@nursesunions.ca