Pediatric and Special Care RNs at Guelph General Hospital Express Grave Concerns For Patient Safety as Merger of Units Moves Forward

April 13, 2021

TORONTO – Registered nurses (RNs) and their union are gravely concerned about the risk to babies and children receiving care at Guelph General Hospital (GGH) resulting from the hospital’s decision to merge its Special Care Nursery and Pediatric units.

“Our dedicated RNs have been sounding the alarm regarding the safety of babies and children in this community,” says Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) President Vicki McKenna, RN. “This merger puts patient and staff safety at risk.”

The Special Care Nursery is a 10-bed Level 2B nursery – an intensive care unit – where seriously ill infants require highly specialized care. These infants frequently require resuscitation, and it is vital that they are cared for by RNs who have the requisite education necessary to provide this care. The Pediatrics Unit provides specialized care for a diverse patient population with distinctively different care needs.

“It takes years of training, continuing education and hands-on practice for an RN to become competent in the specialty skills needed to care for these infants,” says McKenna. In addition, she says, that while the hospital indicates the purpose of the merger is to address staffing shortages in the Special Care Nursery, moving forward with the plan has already worsened the shortage.

“Since announcing the plan will proceed, nurses have left the unit due to stress; they are being forced to practice a nursing specialty for which they have not been educated or trained to perform,” says McKenna. “Each unit needs nurses with the appropriate specialty skills required by these two distinct patient populations. Our RNs know that the merger may result in potential skill and competency issues that will lead to negative patient outcomes in these vulnerable babies and children.”

The RNs have consistently spoken out since word of the merger first broke. They have met with the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Marianne Walker. They contacted the hospital’s Board of Directors, requesting an opportunity to present their concerns, which was denied. They have launched a petition to stop the merger that is being signed by hundreds of nurses at GGH, the majority of whom live and work in Guelph and who want to stop the merger and support increased staffing on the units.

McKenna says that the merger is not a solution to the nursing shortage. “If you have a shortage, you hire more RNs,” she says. “What is happening in this hospital is outrageous and is putting the health and safety of children and babies at risk. Management has temporarily stopped training Special Care nurses on Pediatrics because of the staffing crisis. It is not too late to do the right thing and pause to re-evaluate the merger.”

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care, public health, the community, clinics and industry.


For more information: 

Sheree Bond (416) 986-8240 (cell)