ONA, registered nurses call for independent investigation into staffing at Kingston General Hospital unit

Kingston General Hospital (KGH), a Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) site. Photo by Benson Kua.

Citing staffing levels and care quality at one of the medicine units of a Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) site, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) – purportedly on behalf of local registered nurses (RNs) – have “called in” an independent panel to investigate.

ONA announced the investigation in a press release on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, explaining that the independent panel is made up of “nursing experts,” who have been charged with the task of investigating the local RNs’ concerns about “RN staffing levels and the impact on safe, quality patient care on the hospital’s medicine unit.”

In the press release, ONA referred to the issue affecting “one of Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s General Site Medicine Units.” Kingstonist was able to confirm with an ONA representative that the medicine unit in question is on the Connell 10 wing of Kingston General Hospital (KGH). Connell 10 generally deals with internal medicine and gastroenterology, according to information about the wing available online.

“Our highly skilled RNs are extremely concerned about the care their vulnerable patients have access to on this unit. The nursing experts will hear evidence from the RNs on this unit on the negative impact on patient care that inadequate RN staffing is having,” ONA President and RN Erin Ariss said in a statement.

“As nurses, we are patient advocates and it is vital that we speak out on behalf of our patients; having tried to resolve the issue with the employer first, we have been left with the last-resort option of calling in the Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) to help determine whether our nurses are being assigned more work than is consistent with the provision of proper patient care.”

The nurses’ union said that the IAC is made up of three “RN experts,” who “examine professional responsibility and assess workload issues.” According to the press release, the IAC hearing began today, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, and is “aimed at ensuring these patients receive the quality of specialized nursing care they need.”

ONA stated that the union and its members who work on Connell 10 think the current workload and environment “fails to support the delivery of quality, safe patient care and puts vulnerable patients at risk of serious harm.”

“The issues being raised at the hearing have been escalating since prior to the pandemic. Without adequate solutions and regard for nurses and staff, and especially for patients and their families, they will continue to escalate,” said Ariss.

“We simply must resolve them for the well-being of all.”

Kingstonist reached out to KHSC to find out if the local health-care organization was aware of ONA’s allegations and the IAC process, as well as to request comment from the organization and find out what process ONA and the local RNs have employed to try to resolve the issue, as referenced by the union above. In response, KHSC provided the following statement:

“An Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) is an option within the collective agreement and is one of the many tools the union has at its disposal to further key proposals such as increases to baseline staffing levels. Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) welcomes the third-party perspective provided through the IAC and we look forward to continuing to work to find mutually agreeable resolutions within our Connell 10 internal medicine unit.

“We see this IAC hearing as an opportunity to learn from others in the province who will share their own unique perspectives on province-wide issues such as staffing challenges. At KHSC, we regularly review and work to stabilize our current baseline staffing levels, which, despite significant recruitment efforts, we continue to be challenged to meet due to a shortage of health-care workers across the province. 

“We remain committed to collaborating to provide the safest care experiences possible for patients, their families, and staff. We look forward to receiving the final, non-binding, IAC report and reviewing it with staff to develop an action plan. This will be an ongoing joint effort as we work together to determine how best to translate recommendations into actions.”


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