About 40 hospital workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre protested Wednesday against what their union is calling “premature layoffs” before next month’s launch of a unified digital clinical information system (CIS) for patient records at seven hospitals in central Ontario.
On Wednesday morning, participating hospitals in joint releases announced that their new Epic CIS will go live on Dec. 3. The hospitals introduced the system in June with the intention to launch in December.
Touted as a “game-changer” in health-care delivery, the system will collaborate personal health records and promises to deliver real-time access to medical records and health information between PRHC, Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Campbellford Memorial Hospital, Haliburton Highlands Health Services, Lakeridge Health in Durham and the Scarborough Health Network.
However, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 345 claims PRHC has issued 84 layoff notices in clerical positions at the hospital — all of whom are women. The union claims PRHC is the only hospital to date that has issued layoffs before training and implementation of Epic has been completed.
OPSEU/SEFPO president Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a statement called the layoffs “premature” and an attack on “highly-skilled women health care workers” who worked “tirelessly on the front line of the pandemic.”
“Our members aren’t against systems that make our hospitals more efficient, but laying off invaluable front-line workers will be an epic fail for PRHC,” said Thomas. “We don’t support removing the human connection from patient care and we’re asking for the CEO to reconsider his approach; give hospital staff time to learn and adjust, and discuss retraining opportunities where needed. Don’t risk weakening patient care in the middle of a pandemic.”
In a statement to Global News Peterborough on Wednesday morning, PRHC president and CEO Dr. Peter McLaughlin refuted the claim of 84 layoffs.
He said a “limited number” of clerical roles will be eliminated and other clerical roles will be changing to ensure the hospital is “well-positioned to continue to support patients and their families into the future.”
“The hospital has been working closely with the union and affected employees to mitigate any actual job loss through retirements and other employee attrition, and to ensure that wherever possible, affected individuals have been provided with opportunities to be redeployed within the organization to fill different roles,” McLaughlin stated.
“In the limited number of cases where roles have been eliminated, we have been able to offer early retirement to eligible staff, creating job opportunities for individuals who would otherwise have been affected.
“Ultimately, fewer than 10 individuals have left the organization voluntarily as a result of this change. Nearly 200 clerical staff continue to be employed at the hospital.”
McLaughlin says training is being provided in cases where roles will change and that assistance is being provided as the hospital transitions to the new system.
“These role changes will take place in a phased way over an extended period of time, and those individuals affected have been provided with several months of advance notice to support their transition,” said McLaughlin. “We recognize the significance of job loss and the impact it can have on affected individuals and their families, and we have been working closely with the union to provide affected individuals with all available supports.”
The Epic system will also include the MyChart Central East Ontario patient portal that will allow patients to access their medical records and personal health information. Patients can register for the portal beginning Dec. 3 by visiting mychart.ourepic.ca.
“Epic is a game-changer for central east Ontario,” stated Dr. Ilan Lenga, Lakeridge Health’s chief information officer and chief medical information officer, who is also leading the regional Epic team. “It will vastly improve the way we deliver care across central east Ontario for generations to come.”
Kelly Isfan, Ross Memorial’s president and CEO, called Epic’s launch “the largest clinical transformational project” in the hospital’s history.
“It will streamline the ability for our patients and health professionals to communicate with one another, allowing for even more precise decisions about each individual’s treatment and care. Epic is going to transform the way health care is delivered in our Kawartha Lakes community and the entire region.”
More to come.
—with files from Tricia Mason, Global News Peterborough