BC Nurses’ Union says health authorities must step up supports for frontline workers

THE BC Nurses’ Union says the safety and security of nurses and frontline health care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic is being neglected by health employers and the government.

The union says numerous reports have come in recently from nurses at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops who say they haven’t had unfettered access to the personal protective equipment they need when treating COVID-positive patients. The nurses also said they are being forced to work while they are dangerously understaffed and are suffering from the psychological impact that comes with managing the crisis.

BCNU President Christine Sorensen says nurses around the province are feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, and abandoned.

“In Prince George, ICU nurses are cracking under the emotional toll of watching patients struggling to breathe. In Kamloops, nurses at Ponderosa Lodge have had their cars vandalized. In Kelowna, nurses are being told there is a six-year wait for a parking spot close to their worksite which would mean a safe walk to their vehicles,” she said. “We know nurses are giving all of themselves, but yet, health employers are offering up very few solutions on how best to take care of their own staff.”

Sorensen says staffing shortages have also caused significant problems as more nurses become infected or are having to self-isolate. On Thursday, Royal Inland Hospital announced day surgeries that require an overnight stay would be postponed due to capacity constraints. At Prince Rupert General Hospital, limited operating room and recovery room staff have impacted surgeries.

“Nurses want to provide safe care, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult as they face an uphill battle,” said Sorensen. “There needs to be a better plan in place to support those who have been sacrificing so much. I am asking the Ministry of Health and [Health] Minister [Adrian] Dix to make it a priority to discuss and work with us now to ensure there are the supports needed to retain the nursing staff we all rely on.”