The BC Nurses Union says staff at South Island hospitals have their hands full.
“Nurses working in acute care hospitals such as Victoria General, Royal Jubilee and Saanich Peninsula Hospital are daily working in conditions that are overcapacity,” said Adriane Gear, vice president of the BC Nurses Union.
Gear says, at this time, there are more patients than healthcare providers.
Recently, discharge coordinators at Victoria General Hospital reminded staff in a memo that patients ready to be discharged, but whose living situations aren’t stable, can be put in a hotel to free up beds for those who need it.
“This is a very challenging time for our hospitals on the South Island,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Sometimes they can’t go home for a whole bunch of reasons…They were reminding people to use all possible means to support people who are ready for discharge.”
Island Health said they ‘occasionally’ use hotel rooms to temporarily support people who no longer need acute care for those experiencing homelessness or are waiting for a bed in another facility.
“This is part of our regular discharge planning, before and during the pandemic,” Island Health told CHEK News in a statement.
But to the BC Nurses Union, the memo signals that the healthcare workforce is in crisis itself.
“This situation is the situation, everywhere. There are not enough beds, there are not enough nurses, there are not enough doctors,” said Gear.
Gear says B.C.’s healthcare workforce was strained pre-pandemic, with shortages predicted. Now, facing two public health crises, the pressure on the industry is being compounded by a family doctor shortage and several walk-in clinic closures.
“People who maybe could have their health needs addressed in a timely fashion before things got too bad for them are now showing up at emergency requiring more care,” said Gear. “Sometimes maybe admission could have maybe been avoided if they’d received timely care.”
The province recently promised $12 million to support employing internationally educated nurses and created more than 600 seats created in nursing schools. Now, the union says the government needs to look at retaining the burnt-out staff they do have.
Meanwhile, Island Health says their hospitals are still open and able to provide care.
“While it is an extremely busy time at our hospitals, we want to reassure the public that we are open and ready to take care of anyone,” said Island Health in a statement.