BC Nurses' Union discusses staffing shortage with members

'Patient care is at risk'

Representatives of the BC Nurses' Union are in Cranbrook Thursday discussing staffing shortages at East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

The region is just one region of B.C. that has been dealing with staff shortages this year, and the union says temporary closures of the emergency departments in Creston and Elkford have put added pressure on the East Kootenay Regional Hospital. The hospital also serves communities like Fernie and Sparwood.

“Nurses working in EKRH’s ICU tell us it’s not unusual for the unit to be operating anywhere between 115 percent and 133 percent overcapacity,” said BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear in a press release.

“This, while staffing levels sometimes sit dangerously at 50 percent. This cannot continue to be the norm. Patient care is at risk.”

The union has been making several stops across the province to meet with its members. They were in Kamloops in mid-July, where Royal Inland Hospital has been dealing with serious staffing issues, and they plan on heading to Fort St. John and Prince George in early September.

Emergency departments in Clearwater, Ashcroft and elsewhere in the Interior have also seen frequent closures over the past several months.

“What we’ve seen is that no one part of the province is immune to this crisis,” says Gear. “Patient care throughout the Kootenays is suffering simply because the government does not have a strategy to recruit and retain nurses in this area.”

The union points to the government's own data that shows more than 26,000 nurses will be needed in B.C. by 2031, and there is currently a vacancy rate of more than 4,000 nurses in B.C.

The union reps will be meeting with local MLAs, municipal leaders and medical professionals later Thursday to discuss long- and short-term solutions.

“Nurses must be invited to the table,” says Gear. “They are living and working through this crisis every day. Their experience and perspective is critical to solving this problem.”

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