B.C. nurses call for support amid 4th wave in COVID-19 pandemic at 2 rallies
Two rallies in support of nurses during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic are taking place in B.C. Friday.
The local events are part of the National Nurses Day of Action.
Many health-care workers say they’re at a breaking point, with staff shortages and dangerous working conditions that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I have been a nurse for several decades, and I have seen the deterioration in the healthcare system. And this is the worst that any of us have seen as nurses who normally have four patients and now take care of eight to 12 patients, ” said Aman Grewal, vice-president of the BC Nurses’ Union.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Union says the country is facing a nursing crisis.
“Nurses are not getting to have a meal during their shift. Nurses are not getting the time to even go to the washroom. Twelve hours without a break is not OK,” explained Grewal.
The union believes that without urgent action by the provincial or federal government more nurses will consider leaving the profession.
“The biggest consequence, and what worries us the most, is that patient care will suffer because we don't have the nurses we need to deliver safe care to our communities,” said Sharon Sponton, treasurer of the BCNU.
According to the CFNU, nurses have seen a 78 per cent average increase in overtime during the pandemic and 24-hour shifts become routine.
“Nurses are tired. They've been through the pandemic for the last year and a half. They're working very hard, and they're getting exhausted. They're psychologically injured from some of the things they're witnessing and the workload that has been placed on them,” said Sponton.
The union also says 60 per cent of its members have said they intend to leave their jobs in the next year.
“We need more nurses seats in schools. We need to be graduating more nurses. We need more nurses across the country. We need internationally educated nurses that are in our country, the expedite that process,” Sponton told CTV News.
In British Columbia, there’s added concern about a mandatory vaccine mandate for all health-care workers coming Oct. 26.
The BC Nurses' Union has said while it "strongly encourages" health-care workers to embrace scientifically supported vaccines, including those designed to combat COVID-19, the system can't handle an exodus of nursing staff.
“When the pandemic first started. Our nurses were still being told to go into the hospital and wear a mask if they had mild symptoms before they tested positive,” said Grewal.
“So it was okay then when we weren't vaccinated and didn't have proper PPE, for our nurses to be working and going in and taking care of patients. Why is it now that our nurses are being told that you will be put on unpaid leave?” she added.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has acknowledged the possibility of staff quitting, but argues outbreaks of COVID in health-care facilities have also caused shortages.
“Our healthcare system is going to crash. It's already starting, nurses are leaving because they are burnt out. We have had the opioid crisis, the COVID pandemic, we have had wildfires and heat waves and nurses are not getting a break,” Grewal told CTV News.
The BCNU represents about 48,000 nurses across the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has estimated that roughly 10 per cent of them have yet to be immunized.
Rallies are being held outside Dix’s constituency office in Vancouver Friday morning and outside Premier John Horgan’s in Victoria in the afternoon.
CTV News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment.