Nurses worried about overcrowding at Nanaimo hospital


WATCH: The British Columbia Nurses’ Union says overcrowding and staff shortages are affecting patient care at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH). But as Kendall Hanson tells us, Island Health says the issues at NRGH are not outside a normal range.

Be prepared to wait if you walk into the emergency ward at Nanaimo Regional General.

The hospital is full.

“Today I understand there are 19 patients in emerg who actually are already admitted to the hospital and are waiting for placement in the hospital,” said Christine Sorensen, the BC Nurses’ Union President. “Another 10 are in an overflow unit and five patients have been admitted for psychiatric issues and there’s just no place in the hospital for them.”

The volume and overcrowding of patients are causing staffing problems at the hospital. It is not easy to find all the nurses needed for the ER. Those working are facing hours of overtime, extra stress and low morale. The nurses union says their recent TV ads paint a true picture of what’s going on.

“Nurses are doing their very best. They’re run off their feet. They’re not able to get to every patient in a timely fashion and that causes great concern. It’s not the kind of patient care that we want to deliver and that the patients deserve,” said Sorensen.

Island Health says the Nanaimo hospital has faced overcrowding for the past two years, with a five per cent increase in the number of patients needing to stay overnight in the past year.

“We continue to seek ways to accommodate the surge of patients needing our services and that includes posting additional rotations for overcapacity areas and trying to attract people into those rotations that we know that we need to serve patients better,” said Damian Lange, director of clinical operations at the Nanaimo hospital.

The health authority says the situation is related to the region’s growing and aging population but says NRGH falls within a normal range of its other hospitals. It also says it’s listening to its nurses.

“What is it that we don’t currently do for our staff that we need to do better at and that might be creating more part-time positions for folks who don’t necessarily want to work full time,” said Lange.

The nurses say more care needs to be provided in the community diverting patients from the hospital.

A new urgent primary care facility at Port Place Mall, to be fully staffed in June, is also expected to reduce the pressure at NRGH.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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