Registered nurses at Red Deer’s hospital are bracing for the sixth COVID-19 wave.
Susan Beatson, president of Local 2 of the United Nurses of Alberta, said hospital workers are getting COVID which exasperates the already serious staffing shortage that is due to a variety of reasons.
“There’s a very large number of RN vacancies on a weekly basis. We’re at a bare minimum,” said Beatson, who represents registered nurses at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
“We’re so tired. Wave six, here we go again.”
She said as cases in the community ramp up, more people with medical issues related to COVID require hospital care and there are not enough medical beds in Red Deer which is the referral centre for the region. Surrounding hospitals can only take so many patients when Red Deer’s beds are full.
Alberta Health Services said there are currently outbreaks on two acute care units at the Red Deer hospital. One outbreak was declared on Feb. 28. To date, six people have tested positive for COVID-19. Another unit declared an outbreak on March 28, and five individuals have tested positive.
“We continue to manage these units with a variety of measures to help mitigate the outbreak situations,” AHS said in an email statement.
“This includes working with rural sites across the Central Zone to transfer patients who don’t require the specialized care RDRHC provides. We continue to transfer all appropriate patients to alternative sites within the Central Zone that can meet their care needs. No patients being sent outside the zone at this time.”
As of Wednesday night, the ICU had 13 patients of a capacity of 18 beds. Surgeries are not currently impacted by COVID-19.
With those issues, nurses are working a ton of overtime, they are burnt out, and worry patients are not getting the care they should expect, said Beatson.
“It’s a real ethical, moral problem for a lot of nurses because given the situation we’re in right now, often we feel we’re not able to do that.”
She said proper RN nursing care has been proven to provide better outcomes for patients, like shorter hospital stays.
As a long-time nurse at the Red Deer hospital, she said AHS needs to look at the big picture in order to keep the staff they have and nurture new nurses.
“We’ve had a number locally that have resigned or taken positions elsewhere.”
During a press conference on Thursday, Health Minister Jason Copping said the amount of virus circulating in wastewater, as well as the positivity rate of PCR tests, has increased slightly since last week.
Some areas are seeing wastewater data fluctuate between extremes of the last few months, he said.
“It’s a concern and we’re monitoring it closely, but it remains to be seen how much more increase we’ll see, and in particular, how that will translate into serious illness and hospital admissions,” Copping said.
“We’ve also seen the numbers in hospitals hold fairly steady, with a slight increase to 990 compared to 964 last week. However patients in ICU have also decreased slightly. We can expect some increase in admissions over the next few weeks, but we’re well positioned to manage it.”