Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Four members of the Whitehorse General Hospital’s nursing staff have resigned in one 12-hour period, citing “deplorable working conditions,” their unions say.
“While damning, these resignations are merely symptoms of a system on the verge of collapse,” the unions said in a statement released late this morning.
Doctors, surgeons and hospital staff represented by the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU)/Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada have been raising the alarm for years, the unions said, “and the situation is now critical.
“Chronic understaffing has exposed hospital workers to a constellation of challenges, including exposure to higher COVID-19 risks with fewer resources and an ever-increasing workload.”
Staffing vacancies have “skyrocketed,” the union said, with at least 42 vacant positions across all facilities and a minimum of 23 nursing positions unfilled.
The hospital staff members all quit early last week.
The Yukon Hospital Corporation’s “unhealthy dependence on imported agency nurses means Yukon workers must bear an extreme burden of risk,” the unions said.
“They serve alongside high-risk health care workers who have just flown into the territory, often from active COVID regions. Without any requirements to quarantine before entering our wards, these nurses pose a grave risk to the health of Yukoners and vulnerable front-line workers.”
The unions’ members in the territory’s three hospitals have seen their working conditions worsen year after year without relief, the statement said.
“During this global pandemic, consequences of the chronic understaffing could be catastrophic,” said Steve Geick, the longtime YEU/PSAC president.
“Yukoners should be able to rely on safe hospitals, and so should hospital workers on the front lines.”
The Yukon’s hospitals are “bleeding out” as staffing levels “reach critical lows,” the statement said.
Member responses to a recent union survey highlight the challenges workers face, the unions said, and illustrate the anxiety of many hospital staffers.
“Continually shifting work schedules due to ongoing, chronic understaffing is demoralizing for staff,” submitted one corporation employee.
“When you go to work, you should expect a full complement of staff, not fear the unknown staffing levels for your shift,” says another.
“The stress of the potential of working ‘short’ on a regular basis is extremely disturbing and is similar to vicarious trauma.”
“It’s very scary at WGH right now with the patient ratios and the lack of resources – it’s terrible. How can patients be cared for properly with fewer nurses, burnt-out staff?
“Something has to be done.”
Jack Bourassa, the PSAC’s regional executive vice-president for the North, said from Yellowknife, “Having to continually fight for what’s right and moral is very frustrating.”
The hospital corporation is an organization in need of urgent care, the union said in the statement.
“Without immediate intervention and a serious commitment to improving patient to staff ratios, we fear for the safety of hospital employees and the vulnerable patients they serve.”
A spokesperson for the hospital corporation told the Star early this afternoon that no comment on the resignations was available.
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