Union report of cuts at New Horizons unfounded, director says

New Horizons has told city council that accusations by the union representing some of its staff were “inaccurate” and based on unverifiable information.

Sandra Murphy, site leader and director of care at New Horizons, wrote in a letter to council that claims by the Hospital Employee’s Union, which represents the employees of Care Corp who are employed at New Horizons seniors home, were unfounded. The union had voiced concerns about what it said would amount to a cutback in staff hours and the negative impact those cuts would have.

“The union’s accusations were based on information that had not been verified and in many cases was inaccurate,” Murphy said.

“This inaccuracy has been confirmed by HEU (the union) in a letter to Park Park on Dec. 16, 2015.”

Excerpts from the HEU’s letter, as written by Murphy, read: “…we have subjected our original calculations to closer review and believe that we were missing key information that may have led to errors in those calculations” and that the union is “less clear as to how the staffing changes will impact the LPN (Licensed Practical Nurses) and RN (Registered Nurses) staffing at New Horizons.”

However, the union told the Mirror in December that its concern was related to cuts to staffing hours for residential care aides that are “significant.”

Murphy said the new model is necessary to comply with the care requirements of Island Health which funds New Horizons to deliver care to a certain standard.

“This standard applies to all providers of funded care on Vancouver Island,” Murphy wrote. “It requires 20 per cent of the care to be provided by professional care staff such as RNs, LPNs and professional therapists.

“The remaining care is provided by non-professional care staff such as registered care aides. This model of care is determined by (Island Health) to be the best staff mix to ensure the best quality of care for residents.”

Island Health, which holds an operating contract with New Horizons, confirmed in its own letter to council that hours for those particular employees will be cut, but the move is in an effort to improve care.

“The hours worked by Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses are being increased,” wrote Norm Peters, executive director of residential services for Island Health. “We recognize that the union which represents the non-professional (e.g. care aide) staff whose hours are being decreased, is concerned about this change. However, Island Health supports the shift to more RNs/LPNs as it will benefit patients and their family members. Please be assured that these changes are not about reducing costs, as the expenses associated with reductions in non-professional hours is being spent on increasing professional (RN, LPN) staffing hours.”

Peters went on to say that the majority of staff at New Horizons are happy with the changes as it means an end to historical staffing practices of people working days, then evenings, then nights.

“Under the new schedule, staff will be dedicated to working days, evening or nights, creating consistency for care teams and hours worked.”

Peters said the changes are also designed to improve resident care, particularly when help is needed the most.

Peters concluded his letter by saying that delivering high-quality residential care is a top priority for Island Health and its service partners.

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