A pair of nurses from Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) stood outside of Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield’s office early Friday afternoon (Sept. 17) to raise awareness around staff shortages, dangerous working environments and other issues affecting nurses across Canada.
Nurses from across the country staged similar solidarity “Frontline United” demonstrations on Friday. The initiative, organized by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), called on provincial and federal governments to address national nursing shortages and dangerous working conditions.
“Just bringing awareness to the fact that we need safer work environments so that nurses aren’t getting assaulted, that there’s a staff shortage, so we can’t give the patients the care that they need because we’re rushing from patient to patient,” said Jordan Fisher, a nurse at KGH.
Nurses being assaulted, Fisher said, is a common occurrence in the emergency department.
“People are coming in, they’re drunk, they don’t know any better. We just need to bring better security into it so that they have protection,” she said.
According to KGH nurse Naomi Bailuk, the hospital’s nursing shortage has been an ongoing issue for years but has been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a very busy place. Some people are just burnt out. Luckily, I’m on my second week of vacation, so I feel rejuvenated,” said Bailuk.
Fisher added that there aren’t any beds available at the hospital.
“The hospital’s full. But the hospital is always full. It just happens to be full of COVID patients,” she said.
Bailuk said that the two picked Merrifield’s office to flash their signs and demonstrate outside of because of her support for nurses.
On May 10, Merrifield spoke in support of health care workers during Nurses Week in the BC Legislature.
“I just thought we would have a nice, peaceful protest here,” said Bailuk. “We just want to support nurses and she’s supportive of nurses.”
She called for more funding for nursing students, and an improved program for licensed practical nurses/registered practical nurses looking to bridge over to becoming a registered nurse, better wages, a retention plan, in-house training and more.
“We just don’t have the money to hire more nurses. I think that needs to be brought to attention,” said Fisher. “The government needs to support with more funding.”
In terms of how the public can better support nurses, Fisher said that people should just be aware of the nursing shortage.
“We do need people, we need staff. You aren’t getting the care that you deserve and that you should get because we just don’t have time,” she said.
She added that anyone needing emergency care should also consider seeking assistance from The Kelowna Urgent and Primary Care Center.
“Definitely take advantage of urgent care versus the emergency department, because that’s huge, being able to lessen the load on them,” she said.
Raising awareness, she said, is more important than anything.
“Just let people know that we are short-staffed. Treat nurses better, be nicer to nurses. Be kind to everyone,” she said.