The BC Nurses Union says the temporary closure of the Arrow Lakes Hospital emergency deparment was not unforseeable. (Arrow Lakes News file photo)

LETTER: Nakusp nursing shortage not unexpected, union says

The real reason for the closure is poor planning on the part of Interior Health, writes the BC Nurses’ Union

Re: “Arrow Lakes Hospital emergency closes for six hours,” June 28

This article that said “due to unexpected limited nurse availability at Arrow Lakes Hospital, the emergency department was closed for six hours early Sunday morning, June 24 …”

Unfortunately for the citizens impacted by this closure, the nursing shortage and its impact was far from unexpected. It has simply not been adequately attended to by Interior Health Authority management.

The real reason for the closure of the emergency department is due to poor planning and a lack of effective recruitment and retention strategies on the part of Interior Health. The very serious and unnecessary consequence is a lack of a much needed service in a very rural community where summer brings many tourists and visitors, who may require urgent care.

British Columbia is experiencing a nursing shortage that is global in nature, but BC’s nurses are ready and willing to provide safe and quality patient care.

In rural and remote areas, attracting nurses and other health care professionals is particularly challenging. However there are ways to effectively address such challenges, as suggested in the BC Auditor General’s report on the recruitment and retention of nurses in northern BC. In that report, one of the recommendations to the Northern Health Authority was to work with the BC Nurses’ Union to develop recruitment and retention strategies. While that report was specific to northern BC, Interior Health would do well to take heed of the recommendations in it.

The BC Nurses’ Union has repeatedly reached out to management at Interior Health with proposed solutions to address staffing shortages. One such solution would be to create a rural float pool, as a contingency cost-effective strategy. A “float pool” of nurses provides a defined area with nurses who can move from one spot to another where they may be needed, due to shortages. Typically, nurses in a float pool are more experienced, trained in many different areas of the profession and can care for many complex conditions — a significant benefit to the patients they care for.

If Interior Health intends to truly reflect its brand tagline — every person matters — they need to make sure every patient really does matter, regardless of which community they live in or visit.

Christine Sorensen

President, BC Nurses’ Union

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