‘People are suffering’: ICU nurse says staffing shortages in hospitals are getting worse

Nearly two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, a frontline nurse says emergency rooms are running low amid ongoing staffing shortages.

“Things are worse now. And I don’t think the general public understands how difficult it is to be a patient or a nurse right now,” Birgit Umaigba, a Toronto-based intensive care unit nurse, told Reuters on Monday. CTVNewsChannel.

Various hospitals in Ontario announced this weekend that it would temporarily close or reduce services in its emergency rooms and ICUs due to ongoing staffing shortages.

Since the start of the pandemic, nurses across Canada have faced long working hours with little time for breaks and vacations.

“It’s hard for patients who have to wait hours in the ER just to be seen, let alone get treatment,” Umaigba said. “People are hurting, both staff and patients. It’s a big challenge right now.”

It’s a similar story in BCwhere the emergency rooms of four hospitals in the interior of the province were temporarily closed in mid-July. And in New Brunswickseveral emergency rooms had to reduce their hours due to staff shortages.

In June, Statistics Canada reported an all-time high of 136,800 job vacancies within the health sector during the first quarter of 2022, nearly double the number reported in the first quarter of 2020. Additionally, one in four nurses said they plan to quit smoking. her job for the next three years.

A survey by the Canadian Union of Public Employees this year found that 87 per cent of 2,600 practical registered nurses in hospitals considered leaving their jobs after facing poor working conditions and abuse from patients’ families.

“The nurses are very tired and say, ‘You know what? I’ve just finished’. And the working conditions have not improved, in fact they have worsened,” said Umaigba.

The ICU nurse said she had to do a 16-hour shift last week because there was no other nurse to take care of a critically ill patient.

“I have colleagues in their 20s, last week in the nursing room, talking about starting anti-anxiety meds, just because of the stress of work, not knowing what to expect when you walk in, taking more than you can really handle,” said.

Last month, Canada’s prime ministers met in Victoria and called for more health care funding from the federal government to address chronic staffing shortages.

Office of Ontario Minister of Health Sylvia Jones told The Canadian Press on Friday in a written statement that the province is working with “all partners,” including hospitals and unions, and said Ontario has “an ambitious plan for the largest healthcare hiring and training initiative in the province’s history.”

But Umaigba is skeptical of the province’s hiring plan, adding that since 2019, salary increases for nurses have been limited due to bill 124.

“Where are they going to hire nurses from? What nurses are going to join this type of workforce right now and not quit? The workload has increased and nurses’ salaries are capped at a one percent annual increase.” “, said. “That’s the number one thing the Ford administration has to work on: repeal Bill 124.”

With archives from Deena Zaidi, Melissa López-Martínez and The Canadian Press of CTVNews.ca.

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