The B.C. Nurses Union is calling on the provincial government to take bold action to cope with nursing shortages in the province.
"In 2019, before the pandemic, the forecast was that we needed another 24,000 nurses by 2029. If you look at the number of nursing seats we have in B.C., there is no way we will even come close to that," said BCNU vice president Adriane Gear.
Gear says the BCNU doesn't have faith that the province's plan to deal with nurse staffing shortages in intensive care units will be enough.
"We're not producing the number of nurses that we need."
Gear says it takes years to produce trained nurses, "a licensed practical nurse, that's two years plus, for registered nurse, it's four years plus.
"Nurses are highly educated, highly skilled professionals, that are a scarce resource. And we need to treat them better if we're going to retain them."
Gear says it's not just about producing nurses it's also about retaining the ones they have.
"Treat nurses with respect. Help those internationally educated nurses become credentialed. Hire the non-nursing support staff so nurses can focus on the work they have to do."
Gear says the province has announced plans for a nurse's human resources strategy but she says the union has not been consulted on what that will look like.
"They need better mental health support. That would go a long way and an acknowledgement of how bad it is would go a long way," Gear says.
Interior Health has started recruiting nurses by holding virtual recruitment sessions this week. The health authority is dealing with a large staffing shortage due in part to the pandemic and associated mandates.
A surgeon at Kelowna General Hospital recently told Castanet some of the hospitals "best and brightest" nurses have left public healthcare for the private sector recently over working conditions.
Gear says regardless of the pandemic or the fact that some unvaccinated nurses lost their jobs because they refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine, there was always going to be staffing shortages.
"It's certainly unfortunate that a few members have been let go. But I think in the context of the broader nursing shortage, we would be in this critical situation. I can't say it hasn't contributed. But certainly, that's not the main driver of the nursing shortage," says Gear.