IN THE LEDGE – ‘Nurses deserve action on burnout and workloads’
Excerpt from Question Period debate Monday (May 9, 2022) between Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
T. Stone: I think we can all agree that B.C.’s health care system is in crisis. We recognize National Nursing Week this week, and as we do so, we also acknowledge that burnout of health care professionals and, in particular, nurses has reached a level never seen before.
In the gallery today, demanding action from the government, include B.C. Nurses Union president Aman Grewal. Aman recently said: “On a daily basis, nurses are facing an unmanageable number of patients who need care, and despite all of their very best efforts, they’re watching their patients suffer. Nurses are burnt out. It’s reached a point where many are telling us they just can’t do it anymore.”
My question to the Premier is this. Will the Premier tell the nurses in the gallery here today what he is going to do to take action to address the concerns of these nurses and the dire situation which is unfolding in B.C.’s hospitals?
Hon. A. Dix: I agree with the hon. member that nurses have done extraordinary work, not just in the last two years but every day in our province, supporting patients often at their most difficult moments; and that these have been exceptional and difficult moments for our health care system — the public health emergency that is the COVID pandemic, the public health emergency that is the overdose public health emergency.
Both of these have put, in particular, extraordinary pressure on nurses. That’s why you’ve seen the government take, in the last number of weeks, often in consultation with the B.C. Nurses Union, I think exceptional steps to address the need to have more nurses in our province.
As the members on the other side and all members will know, B.C., historically, has had some of the lowest rates of nursing in Canada per population. We’ve made some moves to change that significantly in the last number of years. We’ve led Canada in the recruitment of new LPNs. We’re third in Canada of the ten provinces in recruitment per capita of new registered nurses.
We just added 602 nursing spaces, which is significant. We’ve added 299 net new surgical nursing positions since the beginning of the surgical renewal commitment. And of course, we’ve taken action to make it easier for internationally educated nurses to join our outstanding team of nurses in B.C.
These are all steps we’re taking now to support nurses and in the future and get the nurses we need for the coming generations of people in B.C.
Mr. Speaker: Opposition House Leader, supplemental.
T. Stone: Well, there’s no quibble from the official opposition and I think British Columbians, generally, when the minister says that nurses have done extraordinary work. They really have, in every hospital and every health care setting across this province, and we are all extremely grateful for the efforts of nurses.
But nurses don’t deserve what’s happening to them today. Nurses deserve action on burnout and workloads, and there are safety concerns. And nurses deserve action from this government on the dire situation which is unfolding in our hospitals.
Frankly, the efforts that the minister just mentioned are simply not good enough. This is a two-term government, and the results don’t match the rhetoric, especially with respect to our hospitals. Our system is in crisis. Tomorrow there will be 250 nurses on the lawns of the Legislature, demanding action from this minister and this government.
One nurse recently described “feelings of moral distress, panic, sobbing, making errors and knowing it is not only me. How many will leave because of burnout? Will it take a death or serious effect on a patient before things change? We need nurses, and instead we’re losing them every single day.”
Will the Premier stand up and tell the nurses in the gallery today when the NDP rhetoric on health care in our hospitals will be matched by action and results?
Hon. A. Dix: I think the member agrees with me, but I would note that with respect to LPNs we were last in Canada per capita. In 2017, we were below standard in terms of registered nurses.
This has an impact. Yes, significant steps have been in place for some time now to increase the number of nurses, and clearly we need to do more. That’s why the government has taken the steps that I described in the last number of weeks alone to significantly increase the number of nursing spaces in our province.
Nurses contribute at every level. We’ve, as the members will know, doubled the numbers of nurse practitioners in B.C., principally in primary care. All over the health care system, we were last in the country in 2017. We’ve doubled those numbers. We have increased the role of nurses in primary care networks between nurses and nurse practitioners — 450 new nurses in primary care. We were below standard in terms of nursing and care in 85 percent of our care homes in 2017. Now we’re above standard.
I think all of these are significant changes, and we’re going to have to do more. We have to train more nurses, and we have to support what is obviously an issue around attrition for nurses in our health care system, particularly after these extraordinary two years.
Source: BC Hansard.
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