BC healthcare facilities have had a shortage of nurses for years, but the pandemic and the recent Omicron wave have made the situation dire, according to the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU).
In a statement to Daily Hive, the BCNU shares that it’s “extremely concerned” about deteriorating working conditions in healthcare settings across the province, citing nurse retention as a major systemic problem, one that has persisted for years.
The BCNU states that nurses are exhausted and “at their breaking point.”
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“We implore the government to act swiftly to manage this staffing crisis and ensure patients around BC receive the care they need and deserve,” reads the BCNU statement.
“After nearly two years of enduring the incredible physical and mental toll of this particular public health emergency, BC’s nurses are exhausted and at their breaking point.”
It won’t be an easy task to meet the demand. The BCNU states that the province will need “upwards of 24,000 nurses to staff the healthcare system by 2029.”
“An emergency plan, like we’ve seen implemented in other parts of the country to manage nurse shortages elsewhere, must be developed to provide solutions and support for nurses working across the BC healthcare system.”
BC has offered nurses incentives to move to parts of the province where the shortages are the worst, like in Northern BC. The incentives range from housing to childcare benefits. But these incentives haven’t done enough to cope with the dire situation.
“In the short term, local solutions that would assist nurses in this staffing crisis include hiring additional support staff to carry out non-nursing duties, to ensure nurses are spending time on safe patient care and having senior nursing available to support new nurses,” says the BCNU.
“For long-term solutions, we also need more seats in nursing schools and to forecast the needs for specialty nursing education. And there must be less barriers for internationally educated nurses to be licensed in BC.”
Hospitalizations have continued to increase daily over the past couple weeks as a result of Omicron.
It’s not just COVID-19 that BC nurses are dealing with. BC has a range of issues — including the opioid crisis — that have put a strain on the healthcare system.
The BCNU also addressed harassment directed at nurses in the province.
“Verbal and physical abuse against our members is absolutely unacceptable and is completely intolerable. Whether it’s at testing sites, vaccination sites or in healthcare settings, they deserve to be treated with civility and respect.”
The BC government also addressed harassment at testing sites in recent weeks.
“BC’s healthcare workers are doing an exceptional job under the most challenging of circumstances. They deserve the support of all of us, particularly now as we work together to manage this next phase of the pandemic.”
The BCNU actually conducted some research on the mental health of healthcare workers.
“Members told us they were at a breaking point well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for far too long nurses have been sacrificing their own well-being to deliver the level of care British Columbian’s deserve,” said BCNU President Aman Grewal in a statement.