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Rally participants warn of imminent B.C. nurse shortage

40 per cent of senior nurses set to retire in four years, 50 per cent of new hires leaving after two, says rally organizer
A small group of nurses gathered at the B.C. legislature lawn on Thursday, Aug. 26, to warn of a system heading for collapse. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Nurses working across British Columbia avowed an imminent and critical loss of nursing staff on the lawn of the B.C. legislature Thursday afternoon.

Funding for the provincial health care system is allocated by the federal government. If more isn’t provided for additional hiring or the compensation of nurses who are overworked, the consequences will fall directly on the public, said nurses at the rally.

Over 50 per cent of new nurses – some of whom have $50,000 or more in school debt – have left the field in two years because of job stress – the result of poor management and training, said Christina Gower, a nurse working in the south Island region and an organizer of the rally. Additionally, over 40 per cent of the province’s nurses are eligible to retire in the next four years.

“We’re watching the mass exodus of ‘super nurses,’” Gower said, referring to senior nurses. “Administrators don’t seem to understand this, and they’re making some changes in our collective agreements that are actually making it more seductive for nurses to leave.”

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One nurse from Cambell River who had driven to Victoria following a 12-hour shift said staff-to-patient ratios must be mandated and supported by better wages.

Among those in attendance were some of the federal candidates for the Victoria riding.

Nine out of every $10 spent on the pandemic’s influx of patients came from the federal Liberal government, noted local Liberal candidate Nikki Macdonald. “But there’s more work to be done.”

NDP incumbent Laurel Collins said if elected as the federal government, the NDP will commit $250 million directly to the country’s nurse shortage. Green candidate Nick Loughton said the Green’s would reverse the still-standing 15 per cent pay cut made to nurses.

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