By Martin J. Kidston
Montana hospitals may be asked to accept a multitude of patients from their Canadian neighbors if mediation efforts continue to fail between the united nurses union of Alberta and the regions health authorities.
Vice President of Patient Care Services at Northern Montana Hospital Caren Pollington admitted the hospital had been contacted by Canadian officials. But with the nurses strike pending, she said the hospital has drawn no definite plans to accept Canadian patients.
They called me and asked what kind of patients we could take, Pollington said. Right now, I dont have a contract with them. They talked to me a month ago, and I dont know if theyre considering our hospital or not.
In the event of a nurses strike, Pollington said NMH could accommodate those patients who required similar services to what the hospital currently provides. However, she could not give any numbers indicating how many more patients the hospital could absorb.
How many patients we took would depend on the level of care they required. said NMHs Public Relations Manager Kathy Newell. I havent heard any numbers thrown around. Caren has discussed our capabilities with the authorities in Canada. At this point, we have not been informed that we will in fact receive any patients.
According to Roman Cooney, Communication Director for the Calgary Regional Health Authority, the city of Calgary has more than 600 community nurses and 5,685 facility nurses. Because facility nurses are considered an essential service, Cooney said it would be illegal for them to strike. Reportedly, there are 18,000 combined nurses in the province of Alberta who are ready to walk if a settlement isnt reached.
I cant tell you a lot right now to be honest, Cooney said. The nurses are still bargaining. Our first hope in priority will be to get a settlement.
Cooney said the nurses may hold a strike vote on June 14.