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OTTAWA – Earlier this year, about 50 medical transcriptionists at The Ottawa Hospital (TOH), members of Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) Local 4000, were informed that they would be replaced by Dragon Voice Dictation software, meaning their services would no longer be required.

While no one has hit the streets yet, we have received layoff notices for at least 50 medical transcriptionist positions – once all this goes through, the result will be loss of jobs and a system that remains questionable,” says CUPE 4000 Vice-President Rob Gauthier.

CUPE 4000 members who have received the notices will have the opportunity to be reassigned within the hospital as per the terms of the collective agreement, but those at the bottom of the list may end up without work.

Not only was technological change implemented without any canvassing of staff but an interesting fact is that at the end of a transcription, the voice recognition software adds a disclaimer stating that the document ‘may contain errors’ – there has got to be a better solution especially when it comes to patients’ health,” added Gauthier.

Doctors at the hospital have also spoken out against the system, citing concerns surrounding lack of input before implementation and the fact that the technology was introduced without any training.

In fact, Dr. Chris Skinner who works for TOH found out about the change through a Christmas card he received from the medical transcriptionists indicating that their services were being terminated. The card included an instruction booklet for the software.

To my knowledge, except for the constant interruptions on my desktop from a program called ‘Install Dragon Medical’, I have received no official information about this change, nor has there been any offer of training or support, he says. If the hospital has a budget problem related to medical transcription, then [they should] engage the physicians to develop a solution which really works for them, and not merely enforce a poorly planned solution, which does not serve real world clinical requirements.”

As part of their duties, medical transcriptionists were also required to edit transcripts to make sure there were no errors – a job that will now be undertaken by physicians’ secretaries who already have more than enough work on their plate.

Since the establishment of The Ottawa Hospital over the last 13 years, the approach has consistently been to impose clinical information technology solutions first without adequate input from the clinical frontline users or analysis of clinical business processes. The philosophy has been to install the software first and to force the business processes to change to suit the software,” he added.

CUPE 4000 represents over 3,700 health care workers in various establishments of eastern Ontario, including The Ottawa Hospital.

For more information, please contact:

Rob Gauthier, CUPE 4000 Vice-President: (613) 722-0652

Paul Boileau, CUPE National Representative: (613) 237-0115

Marjorie Savoie, CUPE Communications: (613) 864-9924