Nurses suffer from insufficient staffing levels

Hospitals in the North West are having a major nursing shortage

Sean Glanville

Insufficient staffing levels for nurses at Kitimat hospital has become a growing concern among the community. Chair for the North West region of the BC Nurses Union, Sharon Sponton, feels the levels are unsafe and are plaguing the health and safety of those citizens in need of care.

Sponton mentions staffing level shortages are not isolated to Kitimat, after recent visits to  Terrace and other community facilities it’s apparent they are suffering from similar staffing issues.

“The nurses workload is such that there are so many patients and their emergency is getting back-logged, it’s a bottle neck waiting for patients to get up to the floor,” says Sponton. “Staff just feels like they can’t provide a level of care to the standards they would like to.”

The BC Nurses Union are currently at the bargaining table for a new contract and improved staffing conditions is their top priority.

“Right now we are negotiating bargaining our new contract and the number one message that’s been put forth to the bargaining committee and to our negotiators is that we want safe staffing levels, we want to provide that safe level of care,” explains Sponton.

In many cases the nurses are so over-worked they have been unable to take their breaks.

“My recent hospital visits I see nurses that are missing their breaks because they don’t have the capabilities or relief capacity within the hospitals to get away and take a decent break,” says Sponton.

Sponton notes that fortunately the nurses are not the victims of patient dissatisfaction, and in most cases patients commend the nurses for their efforts. It is not unusual to see the nurses running from room to room in order to keep up with the workload.

“The last time I was in Kitimat and speaking with the nurses I did have a couple patients come up and express to me the fact that they supported the nurses, that the nurses were doing a great job and they just couldn’t do the things they had to do,” said Sponton.  “One fellow said to me ‘it’s like they’re always running from room to room, they are just so busy.’

The BCNU hope the Ministry will approve funding for improved staffing levels. There is currently a surplus of nurses in the province which features a number of  quality nursing programs including one locally at North West Community College. There are many  nursing graduates looking for work that could fill the staffing void.

“There’s nurses graduating here that want to work but they don’t want to go into lines, they want a schedule and that stability to consolidate their skills but also to pay off their student loans and other debts,” says Sponton.  “In many cases there are graduating nurses hired on as casual but they have no guarantee of work and it becomes very difficult. Nurses will go wherever there is work, and I think there is a real need for those positions.”

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