Registered Nurses are alarmed about unregulated health-care workers assisting in surgeries at Hamilton Health Sciences
September 2, 2022
HAMILTON, ON, September 2, 2022 – Registered Nurses (RNs) at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre are alarmed by their employer’s unsafe decision to place unregulated Operating Room Assistants (ORAs) into the operating room (OR) scrub nurse role.
A letter to hospital CEO Rob MacIsaac and the Board of Directors signed by 84 per cent of OR RNs at the General, McMaster and Juravinski sites was hand-delivered to their CEO by a group of OR RNs yesterday. They are asking that their CEO immediately reverse the decision to place ORAs into surgeries, citing concerns that the move puts surgical patients at risk for complications and errors.
“A patient’s condition can be unpredictable when in surgery, and it can rapidly decline when patients lose their ability to breathe, have unexpected bleeding and other complications. Scrub nurses, who have a diploma or degree in nursing plus specialized credentials in perioperative nursing, are highly trained professionals who can handle emergency situations in surgery. ORAs are not able to respond to critical issues that arise,” says ONA President Cathryn Hoy, RN.
ORAs have about 22 hours of virtual training, two labs and two weeks of practical experience – a far cry from what is needed. Hoy adds, “An Operating Room is not a place to cut corners and make cost savings. Patients undergo surgery to deal with very serious life-threatening diseases and urgent-care needs – you need to have a health-care professional in a scrub nurse role that does more than pass instruments.”
OR RNs raised their concerns to management as soon as this plan was announced. Registered Nurses escalated their concerns to the hospital’s Chief Nursing Executive, responsible for patient and staff safety, outlining their concerns, asking her to change senior management’s decision, but the plan to implement change has gone ahead.
“Hamilton Health Sciences and the Ford government, who granted the hospital funding that was meant to address surgical backlogs, cite this kind of ‘innovation’ as the answer. It is not,” Hoy says. “This plan could needlessly increase the number of surgeries because there is an increased risk of errors and medication mistakes. Hiring ORAs does not support patient safety.”
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 facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.