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'We believe patients deserve better': B.C. nurses rally in Vancouver to demand better working conditions

A demonstration was held in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, as nurses demand urgent action to address the shortage of staff at hospitals across B.C. (CTV, Penny Daflos) A demonstration was held in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, as nurses demand urgent action to address the shortage of staff at hospitals across B.C. (CTV, Penny Daflos)

Hundreds of nurses from across B.C. are gathering in Vancouver Wednesday to demand better working conditions, adding to multiple calls by medical professionals this week for urgent action to staff under-resourced hospitals.

The group will meet outside the Hyatt Regency Vancouver hotel near the Burrrard SkyTrain Station at noon, with the goal of sending a message to the provincial government—“safe staffing saves lives”—according the BC Nurses’ Union.

In a statement issued hours ahead of the rally, BCNU president Aman Grewal said the province “must begin the work required to make minimum nurse-patient ratios a reality in all health-care settings,” as outlined by an agreement B.C.’s government reached with the Nurses’ Bargaining Association in April.

“Nurses spend their shifts running from patient to patient. They’re doing their absolute best to provide health care under extraordinary conditions,” wrote Grewal.

“A staffing model that includes nurse-patient ratios, when properly implemented, will help us retain and recruit the nurses we so desperately need,” she continued.

Earlier this week, two open letters were issued by different groups of medical professionals, as concerns grow over the impact of staffing shortages at the Fraser Health region’s largest hospital in Surrey.

On Tuesday, frontline health-care workers at Surrey Memorial Hospital called for the emergency room to be shut down to new patients and say the lack of staff is threatening the quality of urgent care for people in need.

"We implore you to take immediate action to bolster the availability of hospitalists physicians to the ER at SMH and if you cannot do this the only responsible recourse is to place the Surrey Memorial Hospital ER on diversion,” the letter reads.

The document echoed warnings by obstetricians and gynecologists, who issued a letter over what they describe as a crisis at SMH—caused by chronic and pervasive under resourcing.

“This critical scarcity of resources has created systemic issues compromising safety for our patients,” reads the letter.

Grewal says nurses are “morally distressed” over the current state of the health care system.

“We believe nurses deserve better. We believe patients deserve better,” she wrote.

Drivers and pedestrians are being warned to expect traffic disruptions downtown between noon and 12:50 p.m., as the demonstration will travel between the Hyatt hotel and Jack Poole Plaza.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Lisa Steacy and Regan Hasegawa.

 

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