New work schedule means increased costs and longer wait times for patients

What progress is being made on Diagnostic Imaging 37.5 hour work-week grievances?

Many of you will have been contacted by an HSA Labour Relations Officer gathering information to prepare for hearings with arbitrators Vince Ready and Corinn Bell regarding the increase to a 37.5 hour work week, and how it has affected you and your patients.

As we gather this information, we are learning that Vancouver Coastal Health Authority's imposed 37.5 hour work schedules did not enhance patient access to services, have increased wait times, and may have increased overall departmental costs.

What we have learned:

  • ULTRASOUND: We have documented an increase in overtime costs since September 2013. This is directly due to supervisors not being on the same extended work week as staff, and partly due to increasing shortages in the profession.
    • What it means: the employer's 37.5 hour work-week is resulting in increasing costs.
  • SCREENING MAMMOGRAPHY: We have documented a decrease in patient access to screening mammography. This means patients go outside of their community for mammogram services.
    • What it means: the employer's 37.5 hour schedule contributes to a reduction in access to mammography services
  • NUCLEAR MEDICINCE: We have documented an increase in wait times for patients' access to nuclear medicine service in many sites. In one case there was a five-fold increase in the wait list for MiBi's- Myocardial Perfusion Scan. Patients once scheduled as outpatients now access this test through Emergency.
    • What it means: the employer's 37.5 hour schedule has contributed to increased costs in nuclear medicine and contributed to unnecessary congestion in Emergency Rooms.

What are the next steps?

The more evidence we can present to support the case we are making: that ill-considered and poorly planned change in the hours of work has not resulted in improved efficiencies and, in fact, increased costs and wait times for patients, the better positioned we will be to win the grievances and work cooperatively to arrive at a practicable system that increases service without wasteful scheduling. To achieve this, we need concrete evidence that will make that case, and ask members to be vigilant about gathering the evidence we need as follows:

  • If you work overtime, report it and claim it. This ensures we can track the use of overtime and use it as evidence in a hearing to justify an extended day shift schedule.
  • Document wait lists for patients. Track any changes and provide this information to your steward or LRO.
  • If the employer has mandated "blitzing" periods – that is, a temporary increase in staffing to decrease wait times – report this to your steward or LRO. Describe whether overtime shifts are scheduled to complete the "blitz" periods.
  • If vacations have been altered due to wait times –tell us.
  • If your department has experienced an increase in sick time or WCB claims, let us know.
  • If the change to the 37.5 work week has had a personal impact on you, please tell us your story.

We know many of you are anxious to achieve a resolve. Please provide the information cited above as soon as possible so we can make clear that the various schedules put forward by HSA health science professionals with the expertise and experience delivering quality service best meets patients' need for access to medical services in their own community.