Hundreds of nurses from across B.C. rally at the Legislature Tuesday calling for the government to invest in a healthcare system they say is in crisis.
“Despite the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) repeatedly calling on current and past governments to create a health human resource strategy, we stand here today to raise the alarm about the staffing crisis and horrid working conditions,” Adriane Gear, BCNU’s Vice President.
According to BCNU, a third of nurses in the province are considering quitting their jobs.
“Right now they’re saying that they’d rather go work Starbucks than work as a nurse,” said Peggy, an emergency nurse on the Lower Mainland.
Nurses say “reckless” staffing levels and unsustainable workloads are to blame leading to staff burnout and a level of patient care that leaves them terrified.
“People are laying in stretchers and they’re suffering, and we can’t get to them,” said Peggy. “What if I lose that patient that shouldn’t be lost? Will I lose my job? Will I go to court? Will I go to jail over something that’s out of my control? That’s the biggest fear right now.”
BCNU’s contract with the province expired on March 31st. This rally is the first ramp-up towards negotiations in the fall.
“We will start negotiations after our bargaining conference which takes place in October,” Aman Grewal, President of BCNU.
At the outset, BCNU is calling for more nurses to address the provincewide staffing shortage, funding to allow for more licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to upgrade to RNs, and funding to focus on nurse retention and recruitment.
“Retain the nurses that we already have that are leaving the profession. They’re burnt out they’re tired,” said Aman Grewal, President of BCNU.
Inside the Legislature, the Health Minister says he’s listening.
“We have to take steps to retain nurses we have, those experienced nurses we have. So I’d say to them that I’ve heard their message,” said Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Health Minister.
In the meantime, the backbone of B.C.’s healthcare system continues to feel the toll.
“We feel hopeless, we feel helpless and you feel like the system around you is just falling away,” said Peggy.