10 years ago
From the Feb. 19, 2009 edition
Can't afford not to strike
Rural nurse fears she'll have to leave
Jane Laite loves being a registered nurse in rural Newfoundland, but says if and when the time comes, she will vote to strike.
“I really don't want to, but I can't afford not to," she said in an interview Thursday.
“Not a single nurse wants to go on strike, but we feel we have no choice. I'm sorry we've come to this point. I voted for Danny (Williams) and I will vote for him again, but I don't understand why he doesn't understand the healthcare crisis. I don't understand why he doesn't get it."
Laite graduated from St. Claire's School of Nursing in 1979 and works full-time shift work. She doesn't like proposed contract provisions that would allow the employer to cut a nurse's position if he or she was injured and off the job for an extended time. She also doesn't approve of the new recruiting models that would allow the employer to pay nurses brought into the province more than nurses already working here.
“Those two clauses are the ones that are pulling us out on the street," she explains.
On Monday, the provinces 5,000 nurses began six weeks of strike votes.
Although the government has said it will legislate the nurses back to work if they go on strike, Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy also said Thursday he was ready to sit down and negotiate.
Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses Union (NLNU) want a two-year contract with raises of eight per cen in each year.
Although Laite says money is not her primary motivating factor, she does want to be paid on par with other nurses in Atlanta Canada.
She'd also like the government to fill the 1,000-nurse shortage.
“The biggest problem in healthcare is that there's not enough of us, so we're constantly going to work short-staffed," she says. “If I sat down with Danny, I would tell him we need more money in the system."
Laite described herself as an “average nurse" in a letter her she recently sent to Transcontinental Media and to Premier Danny Williams.
“I am almost 50 years old. I do not want, nor do I think it is safe, to work 24-hour shifts," she writes.
I work in a busy Emergency Department. Do you really want me to take care of your loved ones when I am in my 20th hour of working? A truck driver is not allowed to drive more than 16 hours a day, but a nurse is allowed to work forever. Does that make sense? My question is, if there are no nurses to work a shift, instead of ordering a nurse who has just worked 12 hours to complete another 12-hour shift, why can't a nursing manager step in and at least complete a part of the shift to prevent a nurse from putting themselves or their patients at risk? When I go to work I want to know that in 12 hours I can go home. Is that an unreasonable request?"
Laite says she wants to go to work knowing there are enough nurses to take care of the patients. She wants to do the work of one nurse, not two, and she wants the hospital to stop phoning her four or five times a day when it's supposed to be her day off.
”It's sad," she writes, “that my children have been well coached over the past 10 years to look at the caller ID before answering. They have been taught to lie continually. ‘No, mom is not at home. No, I don't know when she is going to be home. Yes, I will give her the message.'"
Laite adds she wants to be able to take a lunch or dinner break at work. And when she requests annual leave a year in advance, she needs to know more than a month in advance if she is getting that time off.
She says she wants to know that if she's injured on the job she'll be taken care of for longer than two years. And she wants to know that the nurse working beside her is being paid an applicable rate of pay as dictated by the union/government contract.
Much as she doesn't want to, Laite says when her husband retires as a teacher they may leave the province so she can get another nursing job and end her career on a positive note.
“In two years, my husband retires. I have five years to go. Right now, I cannot imagine waiting the full five years if healthcare in this province does not start recognizing the nursing crisis," she says.
“Unless things change, we will likely go elsewhere, up north or out west. I cannot end my career on a bitter note. I have to go somewhere where I am even halfway appreciated. Elsewhere is not always better, but it is different, and right now different has to be better."
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