Greater Victoria nurses rally at premier's Langford office demanding end to staffing shortage

Almost 200 nurses rallied at Premier John Horgan’s constituency office Friday to demand an end to the chronic nursing shortage in B.C. hospitals and patient care facilities.

Nurses from across Greater Victoria gathered at the premier’s Langford office to call attention to the staffing shortage that they say has caused the health-care system to become unsafe. They say the staffing shortage has been ongoing for years, but the continuing pandemic has exacerbated the issue and made it worse.

“We’re here today to draw attention to the fact that there are not enough registered nurses, LPN’s (licensed practical nurses) and registered psychiatric nurses in the system to provide care to the citizens of B.C.,” said British Columbia Nurses Union South Island lobbyist Adriane Gear.

“On some shifts, we are working at half staff and that is just not acceptable.”

Gear says the staff shortage is not only a problem for acute-care nursing professionals. She says shortages exist in public health centres, long-term care and mental health facilities, as well.

“Ultimately, it’s the provincial government that has responsibility for our health-care system,” said Gear. “We’re going to need 23,000 nurses hired by 2029 to make us safe.”

Gear says staff shortages have been especially difficult for nurses currently working in emergency rooms and intensive care units in B.C. hospitals.

“They are absolutely exhausted,” said Gear. “We do not have enough ICU beds, we do not have enough critically trained nurses. Instead of having one nurse to one patient here and around the province, nurses are having to take care of multiple patients.”

Gear says because ICU nurses are having to look after more than one patient at a time, nurses may miss subtle changes to a patient’s condition and not be able to intervene in a timely fashion.

“We’ve been working short for years and it’s only gotten worse,” said Gear. “The government’s own data tells them that we need 23,000 more nurses by 2029, so what’s the plan?”

Gear says the province needs to take action by listening to B.C. nurses and offer solutions to the chronic short staffing levels. She says a first step would be for the government to address the violence against nurses that has escalated during the pandemic.

“We are facing more violence than we ever have before,” said Gear. “Nurses didn’t sign up to become punching bags, and yet that’s the reality among many of us.”

Gear says that many are forced to leave the profession due to physical and mental injury. Many more may soon leave if staffing isn’t addressed.

“One thing we want Premier Horgan to know is that nurses are exhausted and we are burnt out,” said Gear. “We need you to step up and do something. We need you to listen and we need you to take bold actions to help us.”