ST. ANTHONY, NL – Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) is in the process of cutting beds from its medical/surgical unit at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony.
The health authority’s board has made the decision to cut rooms with four beds down to two on that floor to improve privacy for patients and provide more working space for staff, Barbara Molgaard Blake, acting CEO as of Feb. 15, told the Northern Pen.
Blake says over the years, LGH has heard numerous concerns from clients and their families regarding privacy and client confidentiality in these rooms.
“You have four patients, four families, four physicians and nurses, all sharing health information within that room because there’s no other options,” said Blake.
LGH considered those concerns, as well as the occupancy level on the unit and decided to “rightsize.”
“We want to improve the experience for the client in those rooms by turning the four-bed rooms into primarily semi-private two-bed rooms,” Blake said.
She calls this “pretty standard” today for most healthcare facilities.
Blake says not only will it provide more privacy for clients, but it will also make the rooms less cramped for nursing and other staff and provide better working conditions.
With a decline in occupancy on that unit, LGH felt it was able to safely make the cuts.
Blake explains that the unit’s occupancy level has decreased over the past four years. Whereas 83 per cent of the beds were filled on average through 2013-14, 65 per cent were filled in 2017.
“We knew we could safely adjust the beds to go to semi-private rooms,” she said.
According to Blake, another benefit relating to room size is that washrooms can be made wheelchair accessible.
“We will have room, as we get funding, to do renovations and put more wheelchair accessible washrooms in those rooms,” she said.
Blake says LGH has met with staff and has assured them this will not mean layoffs.
If a staff member leaves the unit, whether by resigning or transferring to another floor, she said it will be at LGH’s discretion whether to re-fill the position.
“We look at that position and see if there’s an opportunity to change the staffing mix on that unit,” said Blake. “As people leave the unit, we’ll adjust the staffing.”
However, the cut in beds will mean a higher staff-to-bed ratio for the immediate future.
The positions will, therefore, likely be eliminated by attrition.
Even though St. Anthony Mayor Desmond McDonald feels the move is positive for patient privacy, job loss through attrition is a concern for him.
“For a town to lose three to five well-paying jobs, if these people don’t get replaced in the future, that has a negative impact on healthcare and the overall economy,” he said.
“We lost more than our fair (of jobs) in this area,” he said “It seems like there’s never anything coming back. Just picking away at the level of service that we’re used to, the level of service Dr. Grenfell instituted and created here is gradually getting eroded to a point where you don’t know where things are going to be in the next five years.”