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Nurses rally to highlight 'crisis' in B.C. health-care system


Hundreds of nurses took to the streets of downtown Vancouver Wednesday to call attention to what they say is a health-care system in crisis thanks, in part, to understaffing, emergency room closures and long wait times for patients to get the care they need.

“We’re always short-staffed," said Marcela Bonilla, who works as a community care nurse on the Downtown Eastside.

"There’s not enough people to help deliver safe care or proper care, or have the time to properly interact with the patient."

The march came as nurses gathered this week at the Vancouver Convention Centre to elect a bargaining committee and identify key priorities as they prepare to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

“Nurses deserve better,” said BC Nurses Union president Aman Grewal.

"Our patients in B.C. deserve better. The health-care system is in crisis and they need to listen to the nurses."

Unionized nurses have been working without a contract since March and are preparing for what could be a tense negotiaton process.

Recent nursing grads, like acute medicine RNs Anjali Sharma and Sara Van Buekenhout, have stepped into a system so desperate for their services it risks burning them out already with poor working conditions.

“They’re not great,” said Sharma. “We’re short-staffed almost everyday. We’re forced to care for six or seven patients sometimes.”

She says the standard in acute care is one to four patients per nurse.

“It’s almost a year since the federal government committed to me that we would be working together on addressing these issues,” Premier John Horgan said when asked about what the province could do to improve working conditions for nurses, and the health-care system in general.

“The federal government needs to be at the table. We need to have a national plan.”

But when formal negotiations get underway with the BCNU, the feds won’t be at the table and it will be up to the province to come up with ideas and solutions – and ways to pay for them – if it wants to avoid job action on the part of nurses.

“I do know Minister Dix has been working tirelessly, we’re creating more spaces for RNs, we’re bringing in more care aides, a range of other hires and improvements in recognizing foreign credentials,” Horgan said.

For young nurses like Sharma and Van Buekenhout, it’s vital the province find a way to do more – and faster.

“Otherwise, I think a lot of nurses are going to leave the profession,” said Van Buekenhout.

And that would exacerbate problems for a health-care system that already appears to be in critical condition. Top Stories

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