Being forced to divert patients away from Red Deer’s hospital on more than one occasion recently shows the pressure nurses are under, and that the province needs to start listening to workers on the frontline, say the United Nurses of Alberta.
Between Friday afternoon and 8 a.m. on Sunday, two patients outside of Red Deer requiring ICU level care were transferred out of Alberta Health Services Central Zone because of an influx of patients.
“When you don’t have the resources you need to provide the care, and a lot of it ends up falling on your shoulders, it can be very draining and it can become a very vicious, downward spiral,” said Cameron Westhead, second vice-president with the union.
“(Nurses) are already working short-staffed. They’ve been working a lot of overtime, and there’s a physical limit to how much people can give, and they’ve reached that limit.”
Two weeks ago, 14 of Red Deer’s non-emergency surgery patients were also diverted to Edmonton or Calgary due to the high volume of cases and staff vacancies.
Another nine patients were diverted the weekend of Dec. 12 for the same reasons.
“We are aware of the staffing shortage, and the burnout among staff, and Jason Kenney is just making it worse. He is saying the pressure on the hospitals is easing. That’s why he’s removing these health-care protections, and it’s clearly not the case. Staff are burnt out and we’re very concerned another wave is heading our way.”
And health-care protections are exactly what COVID-related mandates should be called, Westhead said.
“Jason Kenney likes to call them damaging restrictions, but in fact, they’re protections that help save people’s lives.
“We want people to avoid getting sick, and if they do get sick, we want hospital capacity to be there when they need it. We know in Red Deer right now that’s not the case, and it’s not the case in a lot of cases around the province.”
He said nurses are very concerned about what lies ahead now that the Restrictions Exemption Program has been eliminated and students are no longer required to wear masks in school.
“We’ve tried to warn Jason Kenney and the UCP at every step along the way when they’ve made these bad decisions and they’ve accused us of fear-mongering and exaggeration. But time and again, we’ve been correct.”
Westhead said the provincial government has really made a lot of bad decisions when it comes to the pandemic and it’s nurses and other health care staff who have had to pay the price, and some choose to leave.
“A few months ago Jason Kenney said nurses won’t move to other provinces that pay less and have higher taxes. But in fact, nurses are leaving. How you’re treated, and working conditions, is another massive factor in how nurses decide where to work.”