Sask. Nurses union president says province’s emergency departments are collapsing
The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) says the situation at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital was dire on Monday, with 100 people awaiting care and more than 50 waiting in the emergency room for beds to become available.
Tracy Zambory, President of SUN, said the nurses told her such situations are common.
“Things are not right. Anyone who says otherwise is inaccurate,” she said. “We are still in a collapse regime in Saskatchewan, especially in our large tertiary emergency departments.”
Zambori said she spoke to RUH staff about what happened on Monday.
“After 2 p.m., only one patient was transferred,” she said. “Psychiatric patients were lying on the floor. There were people in the corridors waiting for care.”
Zambory said there are patients on wearable heart monitors with no staff to monitor them.
“It’s endangering the lives of patients, and registered nurses continue to feel so incredibly morally wounded that they can’t just move on.”
The RUH experienced a similar situation last fall when 90 people were waiting in the emergency room with only 31 beds available. At the time SUN said, nine of the city’s 15 ambulances were outside the hospital that night.
Zambory said burnout is getting worse and nurses think about quitting every day. She said overcapacity is never below 150 percent in Saskatoon and fluctuates between 200 and 300 percent at RUH.
“We hear from members that the situation at St Paul’s Hospital is just as dire as it is at City Hospital. No place in Saskatoon to move people,” Zambory said. “We are reaching another crisis point.”
CBC contacted the Saskatchewan Health Department but received no response before publication.
Health Secretary Paul Merriman said Tuesday afternoon he needed to review what SUN was saying about emergency rooms.
Merriman said the government’s solution to hire more health workers is having an impact.
“If we have added 160 doctors, 101 specialists and 59 general practitioners to the system in the last 18 months, that makes a difference. We just hired 72 nurses,” he said.
“The nurses who come from the Philippines all fit into the system. There would not be a quick fix to the problem in a month or so.”
“We are chronically understaffed”: Zambori
Zambory said hospitals in Regina are facing similar problems.
She said Regina General Hospital often has 150 to 200 percent overcapacity and “every day two to seven nurses are missing.”
She said staff there administer essential medications like narcotics in the emergency room, but staff shortages mean there are no nurses to get through.
“Members of Regina General have told us this so many times that at least nine ambulances are secured. There are parked police cars and fire engines. She said.
“We are chronically understaffed. RNs across the province are frustrated.”
Zambori said she met with Prime Minister Scott Moe and other ministers last year and raised the need for a nursing task force. She said incentivizing retired or casual RNs to rejoin the system, as has been done during the peaks of the pandemic, could be an immediate stopgap.
“How can we integrate the offshore recruits from the Philippines into our system without having mentoring or support available?” She asked.
“This is not what we should be doing to people who are willing to come thousands of miles away and give up their home, culture and language to work in a healthcare system that has collapsed around our ears.”
Zambory said the Prime Minister and Health Secretary needed to sit down with the RNs to get a nursing task force “up and running now”.