THE BC Nurses’ Union is demanding Health Minister Terry Lake resolve overcrowding problems in hospitals and stop a rising tide of nurses from resigning or transferring out of emergency rooms due to chaotic working conditions.
“This situation isn’t limited to Royal Columbian Hospital, where 10 nurses have left since February. It’s an ongoing, chronic problem in many hospitals throughout the Fraser Health region,” says BCNU President Debra McPherson.
“Abbotsford Regional Hospital has 10 to 14 nursing vacancies in the ER at any given time. Nurses are burned out because of skyrocketing nurse-patient ratios and they won’t go to work on double or even triple overtime, because they so desperately need rest.”
Four months ago, BCNU warned Fraser Health about chronic understaffing and the impact on safe patient care. The health minister ordered a financial review, but nothing has been done about servicing. The overcrowding problems remain and patients continue to suffer.
McPherson points to the case of an 87-year-old woman who has spent the last week on a stretcher and temporary bed in a ‘holding area’ in the ER at Royal Columbian Hospital. The elderly woman, who had serious respiratory problems, spent 8 hours in a waiting room chair just to see a doctor.
“With each passing day, we hear more stories of critically ill patients waiting too long to get a bed or be seen by an ER doctor and sometimes they die in the waiting room or hall,” says McPherson. “In Abbotsford, we know patients are consistently forced to spend up to ten days in Emergency waiting for a bed.”
Nurses are calling on Health Minister Terry Lake to take immediate action: end the talking and reviewing and fix the problem. Health authorities need to provide safe staffing levels and safe patient care.