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New Brunswick on cusp of ‘inevitable’ nursing shortage, union says

The New Brunswick Nurses Union calls a recent staffing crisis at Moncton Hospital a wake-up call
By Sarah Trainor, CBC News, Mar 01, 2018

The Moncton Hospital is dealing with a shortage of nursing staff so desperate that administrators closed part of its emergency department on the weekend.

Because of a staff shortage in the emergency room Saturday, a decision was made to close the non-acute care section for 12 hours and divert ambulances to the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre for about two hours.

The incident should serve as a wake-up call for the province, said Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

‘People talk and they think, ‘Is that the kind of career I want to be going into, knowing that I’m going to be working short more times than I’m going to be working with a full complement of staff?”- Paula Doucet, New Brunswick Nurses Union

​Doucet warned the temporary reduction in services is the tip of the iceberg for New Brunswick hospitals.

“We are on the cusp of a very severe nursing shortage here in New Brunswick and we’ve been saying for many years this needs to be looked at, there needs to be strategies in place to address this issue,” Doucet said.

“It was inevitable … This isn’t a problem that happened yesterday, this has been looming for a number of years. It’s just the tip of the iceberg I believe, and unfortunately it will get worse before it gets better.”

Doucet said the issue at the Moncton Hospital is related to many temporary vacancies because of leaves for maternity, illness and long-term disability.

And the situation is about to get even more alarming, she said, with more than 40 per cent of her union’s current members eligible for retirement within five years.

“We don’t have a plan to replace those nurses,” Doucet said.

“The nurses, they’re very tired. There’s an exorbitant amount working short on a daily basis and that’s happening in almost every facility in the province. After a while it takes a toll.”

‘More with less’

The staffing pressures come four years after the University of New Brunswick cancelled its four-year nursing program in Moncton.

UNB moved the program to the Fredericton campus and replaced the Moncton program with a two-year advanced standing program in nursing for students who already have university credits.

At the time, there were fears that losing the local program would hurt the ability of the two local hospitals to recruit graduates.

Based on Doucet’s predictions, those fears now seem to have some merit.

“Not enough planning has gone into ensuring we have enough nursing grads coming out to equate the number of nurses eligible to retire,” said Doucet.

“Nurses are being asked to do more with less on a daily basis, but there comes a point where we have to say enough is enough.”

Information Morning – Moncton

The Moncton Hospital dealing with a shortage of nursing staff – listen here: http://bit.ly/2F6UWmF

Doucet said the problem is also feeding on itself, with added work demands overshadowing what is otherwise a rewarding career.

“It’s not a very popular career choice when you hear about how many times a nurse comes to work, and they’re working short,” she said.

“People talk and they think, ‘Is that the kind of career I want to be going into, knowing that I’m going to be working short more times than I’m going to be working with a full complement of staff?”

Doucet is calling for immediate action to find short and long-term solutions.

A nursing resource strategy committee was recently set up by government to work on solutions for recruitment and retention in the province.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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