Amid rising COVID-19 cases and lagging vaccination rates, one of northern British Columbia’s key healthcare facilities is also facing a critical staff shortage, according to the Northern Health Authority.
Northern Health says there are only five permanent registered nurses in the emergency department at Fort St. John Hospital, a facility that should serve 20 nursing positions.
“This requires personnel to be withdrawn from other services to support emergency operations. This means that, in some cases, there may be only one nurse available on a given shift, ”said the health authority. wrote in a Facebook post.
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To make matters worse, the health authority said its overworked and exhausted staff face “brutal criticism from the public and insults on their shifts.”
“This is unacceptable,” he says.
“Every day when they report to work, they are putting the needs of the Fort St. John community before their own and those of their families at home.”
Fort St. John Hospital has 44 intensive care beds and three ICUs, serving a population of more than 22,000 people.
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Global News requested an interview with Northern Health officials, but received no response prior to publication.
COVID-19 cases are increasing at Northern Health. On Friday, the health region reported a record 161 new cases, nearly double the number reported in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has more than four times the population.
The region had both the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the province (21%, compared to BC’s 6% average) and the lowest vaccination rate (74.9% of eligible individuals with a dose compared to the provincial average of 86.5%). percent).
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Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said COVID-19 has only revealed cracks in the region’s healthcare system that persisted for more than a decade.
It pointed to a 2018 report from BC Auditor General Carol Bellringer, which found that Northern Health had failed to meet its requirements in hiring nurses, leading to a decline in healthcare service for the region.
While the report made multiple recommendations, Ackerman said the situation has not improved.
Have I seen a change? No, ”she said. “I would say it has gotten worse.”
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When asked for comment, the Health Ministry referred Global News to Health Minister Adrian Dix’s announcement of $ 6.38 million for programs and incentives to attract health workers north.
In its Facebook post, Northern Health also referenced funding and said it was in the process of hiring four more nurses, though it acknowledged that they wouldn’t be available until at least January.
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“It’s a band-aid, but it’s a direct result of the work we’ve done to get (Dix’s) attention,” Ackerman said.
“We have been involved in this for many years.”
Meanwhile, Ackerman urged locals to get vaccinated as the region’s healthcare system struggles.
“We could be doing an autopsy on Northern Health, and I would say it at the feet of people who have decided that this vaccine is not necessary,” he said.
Ackerman also pleaded with his constituents to be respectful to those who work every day in healthcare settings.
“We really should take the time to appreciate each and every person who is in the healthcare industry and thank them for the work of farmers that they have done through this COVID, and for the last 10 years in the north, ”he said. said.
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