By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Nurses at CVPH Medical Center are expressing concerns about changes in how patient floors will be staffed.
Management announced earlier this month that changes will be made to the ratio of nurses to patients on several floors, starting with the Cardiac Unit on R-3.
That news has caused some anxiety among the nursing staff, according to the New York State Nurses Association.
“Although there is no loss of jobs, I think people certainly are upset with this change,” said Sandra Guynup, representative for the nursing union. “When this kind of situation happens in the workplace, it can be a scary thing for the employees involved.”
With fewer nurses needed on patient floors, some of them will have to be placed into a floating pool, where they will be assigned to duties on a daily basis, a move the hospital said will save in operating costs through the reduction of overtime, premium pay and use of traveling nurses.
On R3, the staff recently conducted what Guynup called a “rebidding of jobs” based on seniority to determine which nurses would enter the floating pool. That same process will occur on other floors as the restructuring continues, she said.
“There were concerns that by going into the float pool, they won’t be needed as much,” she said. “We don’t know if that’s going to happen or not. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”
Nurses also voiced concerns to Guynup about statements the hospital made that the nursing staff was actively involved in the plan to adjust nurse-to-patient ratios. The plan was used on a trail basis, but Guynup said the nurses were not clear about how the program would translate into the rebidding of positions.
“A lot of these nurses specialize in what kind of nursing they do,” she said. “A nurse working on the oncology floor might receive education related to that kind of nursing. Being in the float pool, they may work on any one of three floors (not necessarily in their specialty).”
Guynup said she was not involved in planning for the changes in nurse staffing but was updated on the issues before announcements were made to the nurses.
“It was introduced to the staff during staff meetings,” she said. “I had membership meetings that day and was available for any nurses who had concerns.”
Guynup also met with nurses before the rebidding of jobs to help explain that process.
Michelle LeBeau, vice president of human resources, said the positions are being awarded by seniority, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
“Those who are not awarded a core position on a unit are being provided an opportunity to move to the float pool. We will use the same process (outlined in the CBA) if hours need to be reduced, but, yes, the potential is there for a float RN to be scheduled their minimum hours,” she said in an email response to the Press-Republican.
“There haven’t really been any reductions or restructuring of staff at CVPH in quite a long period,” Guynup said. “It has been a pretty stable work environment for them, and this is something that has caused them some stress.”
CVPH is $3.2 million in the red, and the staffing change is one of its cost-cutting plans. The plan also reduces the number of patients handled by each clinical assistant, so that they can pick up some of the duties now done by nurses.
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