Hillside Psychiatric Centre to replace LPNs with more qualified staff

Interior Health Authority issued pink slips to nine licensed practical nurses working at Hillside Psychiatric Centre, who will be replaced with more qualified staff.

An IHA manager and BCGEU representative confirmed Wednesday the proposed changes to staffing. The change is estimated to cost the tertiary psychiatric facility about $100,000 a year more, what manager Carole Capper called "an investment in quality care and in our programming."

Capper said the change in staffing comes as a result of patients coming through the door with more complex needs and demands, including other chronic medical conditions.

"When we opened five years ago our staffing was based on a long-term mentally ill patient," she said, adding that licenced practical nurses were valued, but the change has been forced by patients coming through the door.

"We're seeing today a shorter stay and more complex conditions."

And those conditions require higher-level qualifications and specialities, she said.

An LPN who stands to lose her job said she and staff were shocked when given the news Tuesday. Many are worried about finding positions elsewhere in the city.

"With BCGEU (B.C. Government and Service Employees Union) there's no other facilities in Kamloops," said the nurse, who declined to be named.

LPNs at Royal Inland Hospital are represented by the Hospital Employees' Union, so there are no bumping rights for the Hillside LPNs.

BCGEU spokeswoman Erin Sikora said the union is working with the IHA in a bid to stop or modify the plan.

"Our staff representative is talking to the employer. Our main goal is seeing these LPNs are not laid off."

If the union cannot dissuade the IHA, it will work with the health authority to find placements elsewhere, Sikora said, adding the union is trying to expand the scope of LPN duties.

Capper said the IHA is talking to the union and using its human resources staff to seek out positions elsewhere.

The tertiary care facility, located on Royal Inland Hospital grounds, opened in 2006 with 47 beds. It takes patients who cannot be cared for in hospitals, with the goal of assessing and stabillzing them.

It has about 120 staff and will no longer use LPNs when the transition is complete early next year.

Capper said the hospital doesn't expect problems finding RNs and licenced psychiatric nurses to fill the positions.

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