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Establishment of Urgent Primary Care Centres Long Overdue for British Columbians; Nurses Backbone of Centres

  • News Release
To achieve significant improvements in BC’s health care system performance, strengthening primary health care is critical and nurses are central to this transformation

BC Nurses' Union is encouraged to see the establishment of ten urgent primary care centres which are scheduled to open in the province over the next twelve months.

"For many years, BCNU has voiced strong support for this kind of patient focused primary care policy. Once operational the centres will be fully staffed with nurses as well as other health care professionals and be of particular benefit to rural regions of the province," said BCNU's president Christine Sorensen.

In any primary health care system centered on putting the needs of patients first, nurses' work is pivotal. Especially with many British Columbians using ERs or simply doing without care due to the absence of doctors and other care options, nurses are able and willing to assist in their primary care.  As an example, some registered nurses can also prescribe medication, order routine lab tests and direct patient care and should be utilized in RN First Assist and RN First Call which are advanced primary care practices.

 "The literature is quite clear that having more, not fewer, professional nurses is strongly associated with greater patient safety and better health outcomes," said Sorensen.

As depicted in the Union's recent Is it that bad? It's #thatbad campaign, "Maintaining the status quo by not hiring and utilizing enough nurses is risky for them and British Columbians," said Sorensen.

BC's population is aging. According to Sorensen, "That also includes retiring family physicians that are not being replaced as more doctors are choosing to be specialized. Transforming primary care, with an expanded role for nurses—across the continuum of care—is part of a solution to increase capacity within primary care services.

A key strategy for retaining and recruiting the nurses BC needs is to ensure that they are fully utilized and can follow a career path that advances their skills and opportunities.  These kinds of team-based primary care innovations that are now moving forward in BC can be part of plan to make sure we all get the nursing care we need.

There is currently a global nursing shortage which is being experienced in BC as well. The government's own Labour Market Outlook (2017 edition) projects a need for over 23,000 registered and psychiatric nurses between 2017 – 2027. "Nurses are labelled as high demand positions," said Sorensen.

Data from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions reveals that in 2016, overtime in the province was paid out to nurses at over $120 million. "The recruitment and retention of nurses in this province has been woefully inadequate. So much so, that BC nurses worked more than 42-hours a week in 2016," said Sorensen. In that same year, in Canada, nurse overtime cost the system over $785 million.

"Let's make sure more nurses in BC will have the opportunity to practice to their full scope of practice in additional primary care centres and elsewhere, in order to keep the nurses we have, hire the nurses we need and ensure our future care in BC is the best it can be," concluded Sorensen.

For media inquiries contact Shaheen Shivji, Communications Officer.

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