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LETTERS: Nurses union president calls Chilliwack ER wait times ‘unacceptable’

Says health authorities must actively address safe staffing levels for nurses

I’d like to respond to Jessica Peters’ column: “Changes in the ER wait room may be causing more grief than good,” where she describes her recent, unpleasant, experience in the emergency room at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH).

There’s no question that Ms. Peters’ experience was horrible. As a nurse, and president of the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU), I would like to thank her for acknowledging the challenging environment in this particular ER. I know that nurses are morally distressed as they manage chaotic and packed emergency rooms. Their daily work experiences usually include unrealistic workloads, limited staffing levels and in many cases, violence.

I can assure you that BCNU is equally frustrated with the conditions at CGH. Despite a growing population in Chilliwack, the hospital’s ER is only staffed with one triage nurse, and one night doctor.

As Chilliwack’s walk-in clinics reach capacity daily, it’s not uncommon for CGH to see upwards of 190 patients in a 24-hour-period. While Ms. Peters waited three hours, for many, a grueling six to eight hour wait is often the reality.

This is unacceptable. It is the responsibility of all health authorities to actively address safe staffing levels so nurses can provide safe patient care. BCNU’s latest contract includes language that gives incentives to health authorities to address recruitment and retention. While we are pleased to be collaborating with health authorities on long-term efforts to relieve systemic staffing issues, we feel strongly that this ongoing crisis at CGH deserves immediate attention.

Christine Sorensen

President, BC Nurses’ Union

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