Chief nurse in London health centre fired for exposing safety maladies at Ontario hospitals, association says
Postmedia News | June 20, 2016 1:20 PM ET
Vanessa Burkowski, former CNO of London Health Sciences Centre, was fired for researching and exposing the risks of replacing nurses with less qualified employees to care for patients. Photo credit Postmedia Network.
The boss of London’s largest hospital has sacked his chief nurse to stop her from speaking out against changes that put patients across Ontario in harm’s way, the head of a powerful nursing association claims.
Murray Glendining, chief executive of London Health Sciences Centre, tried to buy the silence of his chief nursing officer, Vanessa Burkoski, offering her cash if she would resign quietly, but she refused and was fired, Doris Grinspun, chief executive of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), said Friday.
“It’s the most disgraceful thing I’ve seen in my 20 years at RNAO,” Grinspun told The Free Press.
Glendining fired Burkoski not for her work at the London hospital, where she received stellar reviews, served as a vice president and looked after safety and quality of care, but because she was serving as president of the RNAO when in May it produced a report that exposed how Ontario hospitals had harmed patients by replacing registered nurses with cheaper and less educated health care workers, Grinspun said.
Glendining isn’t the first Ontario hospital boss to try to muzzle hospitals’ top nurses, Grinspun said.
“Patients suffer the consequences because chief nurses are the safety valves,” she said. “We are outraged about this level of intimidation of nurses by CEOs who treat their hospitals like private organizations.”
But the London hospital boss went further by firing a nurse whose leadership in Ontario was almost unrivaled — before coming to London in 2011, Burkoski was the longest-serving provincial chief nursing officer, advising three Ontario health ministers.
“(Burkoski) is a person of stellar integrity, judgment and experience,” Grinspun said. “(Her firing) is just unconscionable.”
Asked by The Free Press about Grinspun’s concerns, Glendining sent a brief email: “We can confirm that Vanessa Burkoski is no longer an employee at London Health Sciences Centre. LHSC does not comment on any personnel matters.”
JOLIET – The nurses’ union at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center is objecting to a recent “boot camp” training it described as humiliating.
The emergency room training, according to the union, included forcing nurses to drink water without access to restrooms. The union said the training was disciplinary after certain patient satisfaction scores.
Hospital officials issued a statement saying participants found the training “a positive and productive experience.”
Chris Martin, spokesman with the Illinois Nurses Association, disagreed.
“The nurses view it as a punitive and humiliating experience,” he said.
The INA, which represents nurses at the hospital, has filed a petition with hospital management contending that the training session violated scheduling provisions in the union contract.
“I think they’re looking for better dialogue on these kinds of matters going forward,” Martin said.
The INA put out a news release announcing the complaint and called for better collaboration to fix problems.
“I think our time and money would be well spent if the hospital leadership collaborated with the physicians to increase our throughput times since many complaints are regarding the ridiculous wait times our patients experience,” emergency room nurse Lisa Simmering said in the news release.
Another activity, according to the news release, had nurses sitting on a bedpan in a patient bed for 30 minutes in a public hallway while wearing goggles and headphones to simulate poor vision and hearing.
The hospital statement said nurses “are held in the highest esteem.”
“Overwhelming feedback from participants in the recent Emergency Department training was that it was a positive and productive experience, providing new best practice insights that they are eager to implement with our patients,” the hospital statement said.