The BC Nurses' Union is in Cranbrook today, meeting with nurses who are stretched thin due to regional staffing shortages and acute patient needs.
Temporary closures of the emergency departments in Creston and Elkford have put added pressure on Cranbrook's East Kootenay Regional Hospital (EKRH), the largest hospital in the region that also serves communities such as Fernie and Sparwood.
"Nurses working in EKRH's ICU tell us it's not unusual for the unit to be operating anywhere between 115 percent and 133 percent overcapacity," says BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear. "This, while staffing levels sometimes sit dangerously at 50 percent. This cannot continue to be the norm. Patient care is at risk."
BCNU is making stops in communities across the province to hear first-hand how the health-care crisis is impacting members and patients. The BC government's own numbers show that more than 26,000 nurses will be needed by 2031 to manage the needs of British Columbians; Stats Canada's most recent numbers show a vacancy rate of more than 4,000 nurses.
"What we've seen is that no one part of the province is immune to this crisis," says Gear. "Patient care throughout the Kootenays is suffering simply because the government does not have a strategy to recruit and retain nurses in this area."
BCNU reps will meet with local MLAs, municipal leaders and medical professionals later today to discuss the crisis and brainstorm short and long-term solutions.
"Nurses must be invited to the table," says Gear. "They are living and working through this crisis every day. Their experience and perspective is critical to solving this problem."
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