Expect staff challenges this summer, says Northern Health

·2 min read

After Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge Hospitals went on diversion, Northern Health says nursing shortages at both are being addressed.

Calls for qualified recruits continues to go out after Chetwynd Hospital went on diversion on July 4, says NH Chief Operating Officer Angela De Smit.

"We're expecting to encounter more staffing challenges this summer," said De Smit, noting in the past the health authority has relied on poaching staff from Dawson Creek or Fort St. John.

"Both in a number of our facilities, including Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge. In the past we could pull staff from other facilities within the Northeast, say Fort St John or Dawson Creek."

She added with summer vacations and staff taking time off, there's less of an opportunity to do that. Tumber Ridge diverted emergencies from June 2 to 7, as no agency nurses were available.

Two full-time positions remain open, with one part-time position. The centre is staffed with only one full-time nurse at present.

De Smit says the situation has been remedied for now using agency nurses to cover the remainder of the summer, with only the long weekend in August not fully staffed.

"We're getting a few agency nurses who are able to sign on. More so in Tumbler Ridge than in Chetwynd," she said.

Four nursing vacancies were open in Chetwynd, with two RNs filling the spots. One will start this week, while the other will arrive in October, she added.

"What we've found over the past couple months is that they're on diversion because they have more admitted patients than they're able to staff for," said De Smit.

"Sometimes they're up to seven or eight patients and they either don't have the space or the additional staff to look after them."

She added a minimum of one registered nurse is required to keep the ER open.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

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