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Integrated hospital team key to containing SARS

In the wake of the SARS crisis, front-line registered nurses are calling on health authorities to abandon contracting-out plans that will remove housekeeping and other support staff from the hospital team.

Citing the critical role cooperative working relationships played in containing the spread of SARS in B.C. hospitals, BC Nurses’ Union steward Bonnie Best told a press conference May 15 that “teamwork was a key lesson that came out of the situation” and that any plans to continue with contracting out support staff now would be “foolhardy and irresponsible.”

BCNU Vice-President Patt Shuttleworth and BCNU steward coordinator Lia Carter at Royal Columbian Hospital echoed those concerns pointing to the rapid changes in procedures that continually confronted hospital staff as they learned more about the disease they were attempting to contain.

“It was very important that people were familiar with the wards, the equipment, and the procedures,” said Shuttleworth, who emphasized the problems that come from “bare-bones” staffing and the importance of effective communication throughout the entire staff team.

Best said the SARS crisis illustrates that all hospital staff - including housekeepers and other support workers - are “part of an integrated team with one central goal: the safety and security of patients and staff in the face of a potentially deadly virus.”

“We simply could not have carried out these crucial tasks effectively if housekeeping, security and other support staff were contracted out employees, not part of our team, operating under a different management structure with different goals,” she said.