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Nurse staffing crisis in Fort St. John: Northern Health

Just five permananent nurses staffing hospital ER, health authority says

Northern Health says its staffing levels are in crisis in Fort St. John, and is urging residents to show patience and respect when dealing with health care workers.

In a statement on Friday, the health authority said it has only five permanent registered nurses to staff the hospital emergency room, well short of a total 20 positions.

That’s exacerbating staffing levels elsewhere in the hospital, and in some cases, there may be just one nurse available on a given shift, the health authority said.

“Our staff are exhausted, overworked, and are facing brutal criticism from the public and insults on their shifts. This is unacceptable,” the statement reads.

“Every day when they show up for work, they are putting the needs of the community of Fort St. John ahead of their own and those of their families at home. We implore people to be kind, patient, and respectful of these staff members and the situation they are facing.”

Four new nurses are expected by January, according to Northern Health, noting that applications for open nursing positions “are very limited.”

Relief from a $6.38 million announcement by the province this week “will not be immediate,” the health authority said.

“This situation is further impacted by the current pressures related to rising COVID-19 cases, which also mean longer wait times for people coming to the ER – a situation that will likely get worse before it gets better,” the statement reads.

The health authority is also urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it will help lessen the burden on the health care system.

As of Monday, Sept. 13, first dose adult immunization rates in the North Peace were reported at 63%; at 61% in the South Peace; and at 63% in Fort Nelson. Second dose rates were reported at 52% in the North Peace; at 51% in the South Peace; and at 54% in Fort Nelson.

First dose immunization rates for residents 12 and older were reported at 60% in the North Peace; at 59% in the South Peace; and at 61% in Fort Nelson. Second dose rates were reported at 50% in the North Peace; at 49% in the South Peace; and at 51% in Fort Nelson.

For more details on immunization clinics in northeast B.C., visit the Northern Health website.