BC Nurses’ Union President Gayle Duteil says she was shocked at what she saw when she recently toured Abbotsford’s Regional Hospital’s emergency room last weekend. She made the visit to support nurses who are managing extremely high patient volumes and chronic overcrowding.

“The ambulance bay was full of patients. I saw a number of psychiatric patients being held in chairs designed for seniors. It was very, very shocking and I could see how difficult this was for the nurses who were there.”

BCNU has made ongoing appeals and recommendations to Fraser Health to address the crisis at ARH. However, core concerns around baseline staffing, unsafe patient ratios, hallway patients and vacancies have not been addressed by the health authority. The bottom line is that where there should be 88 nurses there are 32 nurses missing. Nurses are struggling to cope but until those 32 holes are filled with nurses, patient care and nursing staff will continue to suffer.

“This is not a new problem. This is a systemic issue that has been going on for at least the last two years,” says Duteil. “This history of mismanagement and risk to patients has to be addressed by the Fraser Health Authority Board. We keep sounding the alarm every way we can with management but they continue to ignore this serious problem.”

Duteil is calling on the board of directors to act immediately to address the ongoing lack of effective management. She is asking Fraser Health Board Chair, Karen Matty, to join her in an urgent meeting with nurses at the site, in order to hear directly from the nurses about what is happening in the ER and what improvements need to be made.

“Karen Matty served as head nurse of the pediatric ward for Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. She should understand the importance of providing safe patient care,” says Duteil. “I’m personally inviting her to join me so she can hear for herself that the conditions are abysmal and need to be improved right away.”

Nurses have filed complaints on a variety of issues including; hallways being grossly congested with stretchers, psychiatric patients being held in recliners and limited toileting facilities for the volume of patients in the ER.

“Enough is enough,” Duteil says. “Fraser Health needs to start listening to nurses. Thirty two nursing positions remain unfilled at ARH. Nurses are working double shifts, unsustainable hours of overtime and burning out or just leaving because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Meanwhile, Fraser Health is hiring agency nurses at four times the cost from outside BC to temporarily fill the nursing holes. This has got to stop. They need to wake up and take this crisis seriously.”