Wednesday, September 21 2022

The current number of vacancies at the Interior Health Association is about three times higher than it was before the pandemic and the current staff is “burning out”, according to an IHA official.

An IHA media relations survey confirmed that staffing shortages plaguing healthcare facilities across the country are also crippling West Kootenay locations, resulting in reductions in ward operating hours. emergency and the redeployment of staff from other departments and centres.

In fact, the national shortfall has had a knock-on effect on the local inability to attract and fill key gaps in the jobs roster, the IHA’s media relations office in Kelowna noted.

“Interior Health faces human resource challenges in many of our communities,” the ministry said. “These challenges are occurring across all sectors of the economy, with the health sector across Canada being particularly affected.

Although the cause of the staffing shortage is not isolated, the demands of the pandemic have been widely cited by those who have left the healthcare field.

Staffing shortages have been reported at hospitals across the country in recent months, with burnout – after more than two years of increased workloads due to COVID-19 – often cited as a factor.

“Two-plus years of a generational health crisis that is the pandemic has meant that many nurses need a break from their profession, and burnout is a reality,” the media office said.

Additionally, illness rates continue to climb higher than previous years as COVID-19 continues to circulate in West Kootenay.

Makeshift measures

To help alleviate short-term shortages, IHA has contracts with several nursing agencies, which help fill vacancies for nurses and orderlies.

Healthcare facilities are also redeploying nurses from smaller sites to a hospital facing a staff shortage, or from the hospital itself to a unit in need of staff.

“In some cases, patients are redirected to another hospital if they cannot be treated safely at a particular site where there are not enough nurses or doctors able to work shifts,” they said. said IHA Media Relations. “Our hospitals are networked and support each other when needed. »

If the IHA is unable to adequately staff a site, the decision is made to temporarily close a unit, such as an emergency department at two rural hospitals in Kootenay-Boundary.

The services that have been affected are the hours of operation of the emergency department at Slocan Community Health Center – which have been temporarily reduced to 12 hours a day (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) due to a shortage of nursing staff – and Boundary District Hospital in Grand Forks has temporarily closed all 12 inpatient beds (the emergency department remains open) due to a lack of healthcare staff.

New deal a solution?

Help may be on the way, however.

On Thursday, September 1, an agreement was announced between nine unions representing 60,000 health care workers – about 90% represented by the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) – and the province, but it must be voted on and ratified by the union members. .

The new deal could address staffing shortages and resulting burnouts, HSE Secretary-Commercial Director Meena Brisard noted in a press release, but the new three-year deal also covers cost-sensitive salary increases. inflation.

“Protecting our members’ income from rising costs has been a key priority for our bargaining committee,” Brisard said in the release. “This settlement provides inflation-sensitive wage increases and other compensation enhancements that will help retain skilled and experienced workers in health care and attract new workers to careers in our hospitals and nursing homes. care.”

The province could contribute more to training and education by pledging to hire thousands of new workers.

“This will provide our members with professional mobility, reduced workloads and more secure work, which is essential to address the staffing crisis we face today,” said Brisard.

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