Staffing shortages result in vacation denials for some health-care workers

·3 min read
Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees, says union members were told the vacations couldn't be posted on time because of staff shortages.  (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)
Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees, says union members were told the vacations couldn't be posted on time because of staff shortages. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

The union that represents more than 1,500 health-care workers, including LPNs and RCWs, says many of its members are being denied their vacation requests.

Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees, said the union has filed a grievance, after Health P.E.I. failed to post members' vacation time this month, as set out in their collective agreement.

Jackson said they were told the vacations couldn't be posted on time because of staff shortages.

"Our members are pretty disappointed," Jackson said in an interview with CBC News.

"I mean, they've really had a rough time, especially the last two-and-a-half years during COVID, making sure that their clients are well cared for and like I said, doing the heavy lifting for Health P.E.I. on the front lines," said Jackson. "And they really need a break. They need to be granted their vacation so they can get the necessary downtime that they deserve."

'Maintain necessary services'

Health P.E.I. says management is still working to "do everything possible to allow as many of those vacation requests as possible."

In a statement to CBC News, Health P.E.I., said it "...recognizes our staff have gone above and beyond and need and deserve vacation. At the same time, as an organization, we need to ensure we maintain necessary services for Islanders."

Brittany Spencer/CBC
Brittany Spencer/CBC

Corinne Rowswell, chief operations officer with Health P.E.I., said staffing shortages are forcing the provincial health authority to deny vacations, because there is simply nobody to backfill the people who want to take vacation.

Rowswell said she is working every angle to ensure staff get some vacation, but whether they get all of their vacation is still up in the air.

"We continue to work through the various staffing challenges that we have so some denials have happened," said Rowswell, adding that some may be approved later, if they can find the staff to backfill the positions.

"I honestly feel for the staff who have been working so hard, we know that they have been working hard and we're going to be doing everything we can, and working with our labour partners and our staff, to make sure that we can come together collectively to ensure that people get some time off at least."

Rowswell said the ultimate solution is to fill some of the hundreds of vacancies in the health-care system, something she said Health P.E.I. and the province are doing everything they can to do.

Can't keep going

Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union, said her members can't keep going the way they are going now. She said there will be some nurses and nurse practitioners who will not get any vacation this year.

CBC
CBC

"We have members that have been unable to access even a single day, depending on the area that they work in," said Brookins.

"So some of them are carrying over vacation banks for the last two years and again, looking forward to using them and not being able to access [their vacation] is beyond frustrating. They need to have time away. They need to have time to spend with their family, need to kind of regroup and get ready for the fall."

More recruitment needed

Jackson said if the province had acted sooner to deal with the recruitment and retention issues, her members wouldn't be facing the prospect of another summer with no vacations. She said part of the solution may be offering paid overtime to those still working, so other members can get their vacation.

"The employer is probably just as upset as we are about vacation denial because they don't have the resources to fill the positions, to fill the vacancies," said Jackson.

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