Postponed patients sent to UBC Hospital
By Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer
In a recent interview with the Vancouver Sun, Anne Marie D’Angelo, spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), stated that a shortage of nurses at the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) will result in patient relocation and the postponement of several types of operations.
A shortage of 30 nurses is expected over the next 5 months, and some of the VGH’s operating rooms are expected to close for an as of yet undisclosed number of days per month. The Ministry of Health’s Surgical Patient Registry indicates that, over the past 5 years, there has been an average of 71,000 patients waiting for surgery in BC. At the end of September, there were 73,045 in need of care.
One explanation for that shortage is a large number of failures in the six-month program required to become an operating room nurse. Fifty-three per cent of nurses who took the course failed, while 47 per cent passed. The previous passing average from 2011 to 2014 was 85 per cent. The results of this course will have implications on VGH until at least March 2016.
There are currently 13 job postings at VGH open to registered nurses. Province-wide, 250 critical nursing positions struggle to be filled, according to the Vancouver Sun.
D’Angelo offered apologies “to any patients who may be inconvenienced by the problem,” insisting that VCH “are doing everything possible to remedy the situation and minimize any impact on patients.” In a hospital memo given to the Vancouver Sun, VGH predicts that less than one per cent of cases will be postponed. VGH processes approximately 30,000 cases per year, so under ideal conditions the maximum number of backlogged cases should not exceed 300.
“To minimize the number of postponements, we are relocating some VGH cases to UBC Hospital and some UBC cases to private surgery centres,” said D’Angelo. She also insisted that urgent or critical operations will go forward as planned, without any postponement or relocation.
A federal report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) illuminates a possible reason for this vacancy. Their figures show a decrease in nursing school graduates from 1,534 grads in 2012 to 1,307 in 2013. According to CIHI, more registered nurses are leaving the workforce than there are coming into it.
The culprit appears to be a high retirement rate coupled with a declining graduation rate, which poses a question in itself: who will be there to tend to the health of the aging population?
The BC government is attempting to address the nurse shortage, having gradually doubled the amount of spaces in nursing programs since 2001. The province has also invested $200 million towards these programs.