Excerpt from debate in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday, May 5, 2022 on the nurse shortage in hospitals.
T. Stone: With all due respect to the Minister of Health, it’s 2022. Our health care system…. Hospital after hospital after hospital is in near collapse due to the challenges that are taking place within those hospitals.
The members of the opposition are simply bringing forward the stories, the testaments, of front-line health care workers who are demanding action. They’re demanding that this minister actually step up and take action to improve the dire situation in our hospitals.
I will highlight another hospital, the one in Kamloops: Royal Inland, where the situation is dire. Nurses are speaking out in record numbers, despite the concerns that they have about potentially being dismissed or having other types of actions taken against them. One nurse had this to say the other day: “What little staff we have is redeployed throughout the building. Medical units, which should have eight nurses, very often have shifts where no nurses are booked to work.”
This is against the backdrop of reports that the nursing complement right now at Royal Inland Hospital on most days is often at 50 percent of what a normal complement would be. That is unacceptable.
Again, the question to the minister would be this. Will the minister let these nurses speak, and will he fix the crisis at Royal Inland Hospital?
Hon. A. Dix: The member may think asserting that policies in place in 2004 were put in place by this government is just par for the course in his conduct of his role as an MLA, but I don’t agree with it. The policy is the same.
There is whistleblower protection and policies in place in the Interior Health Authority and everywhere else. They continue to be in place, in addition, in this House in the wake, frankly, of the Health firings matter, which I will not go into here. We put in place public interest disclosure legislation and unanimously passed it in 2019, which will also be in place in health authorities.
The members refer, and the member for Williams Lake, Cariboo South, referred, to the record around surgeries. Well, we’ve added 299 net new surgical nurses since we put in place the surgical renewal plan in March and May of 2020. That’s action. The 84 measures to expand services. That’s action. The best year in the history of British Columbia in terms of surgeries, in one of the most complicated and difficult health years. That’s action. The fact that more than 200 nurses were hired in Royal Inland Hospital since January of 2021 is action. The fact that we have a dedicated staff of recruitment at that hospital is action.
Look, I have visited Royal Inland Hospital. I have met with nurses. They have gone through the ringer and more over the last two years. I respect the work they do. They’ve communicated directly to me, and I’ve listened directly to them, their concerns. And we’re going to continue to take action to support them, because they deserve it.
Our public health care system has done a remarkable job in dealing with this extraordinary period in the history of health care in the history of our province. We’ll continue to support our health care workers as we move forward through this year, 2022.
Mr. Speaker: Opposition House Leader, supplemental.
T. Stone: Well, what nurses are saying at Royal Inland, what they’re saying at Cariboo Memorial, what they’re saying at hospitals all across this province is that these hospitals are on the verge of collapse. That’s what’s happening today. The reality is these nurses are coming forward in record numbers, and they are saying that, but they are worried about action being taken against them.
Now back to Royal Inland Hospital for a moment. Leaked data shows that there are up to 30 nursing shifts unfilled on any given day in the ICU and ER departments — on any given day. But instead of getting the needed support, nurses face discipline, up to and including dismissal, for violating the NDP’s gag order. This is what the B.C. Nurses Union president, Aman Grewal, has confirmed with respect to this discipline. “All that they’re doing is advocating on behalf of their patients, letting the public know the reality of what public health care is like right now.”
Again, will the minister drop the gag order? Will he act to end the health care crisis at Royal Inland Hospital so that patients and health care workers can go in and know that safety is not being compromised?
Hon. A. Dix: The member has done it again. I won’t characterize what he’s doing, but when he refers to an NDP gag order…. And they quoted from a document from March 2004. A policy, a code of conduct has been placed, since that time, in health authorities that have whistleblower protection, for a government that brought in the Public Interest Disclosure Act to protect whistleblowers and that would protect them everywhere, from a Minister of Health who did raise issues around health employees in the Ministry of Health for years, yes, and brought in changes to ensure things were better. You bet.
As well, there are significant issues facing health care professionals and health care workers everywhere, and I expect to hear from them when there are issues. They actually have a duty to report issues, and they do. I would say that the efforts and the work done by everyone to support health care workers in primary care, in long-term care, in acute care, to ensure our long-term care homes, 88 percent of them, are not below standard in terms of staffing…. That was the situation that existed when I became Minister of Health. Changes…. It’s my responsibility, and you bet I’ll exercise it.
Source: BC Hansard.