UPWARDS of 200 nurses gathered on Thursday in a show of solidarity with those working at the emergency department of Eagle Ridge Hospital (ERH) to demand the government address the chronic staffing crisis that continues to cripple their worksite and others around the province.
Despite a recent $27-million renovation, ERH’s ER has been struggling to serve the growing communities of Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam. BCNU President Aman Grewal said that once again, it’s a case of government investing in infrastructure without considering a health human resource (HHR) plan or coming up with immediate staffing solutions to address the current dire nurse shortage.
“You can have a shiny, brand-new ER, but that falls short if you don’t have nurses and necessary health-care workers to provide the patient care intended for the community,” said Grewal. “There are so many unfilled nursing lines in the ER that nurses from other parts of the hospital, who do not have ER training, are being asked to pick up shifts to manage the patient load. This is unsafe and unacceptable.”
It is not uncommon for ERH to operate at around 115 percent capacity, serving more patients than the facility is built to care for. The only community hospital serving the popular Tri-Cities area, ERH lacks a pediatric unit, psychiatric unit, and ICU and is not equipped to manage high-acuity patients, forcing many to be transferred to Burnaby or New Westminster for care, said the BCNU.
Grewal said nurses want to see the government present tangible solutions around addressing the nurse and health-care worker shortage, instead of relying on agency nurses or leaving those on shift to provide care in untenable and often dangerous conditions.
“Not only are nurses exhausted, but they’re also worried for their patients and colleagues,” she said. “Many are questioning how much longer they can go on for.”
A recent bargaining survey conducted by BCNU found 48 percent said their working conditions make it very difficult to maintain any work-life balance and 47 percent said they are considering leaving the profession altogether.