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July 18, 2024 Taber

Moves to address nursing shortage

Posted on June 14, 2022 by Maple Creek

Maple Creek is suffering from a nursing shortage that reflects wider problems in Saskatchewan’s health care system.
Efforts are now being made to fill full-time nursing positions at the Southwest Integrated Health Care Facility.
They include a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, and continuing care assistants.
“There is a nursing crisis across Saskatchewan,” said Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor of Maple Creek, last Friday.
She said finding contract nurses to plug gaps only offered a “band-aid” solution.
“We need to fill those positions with full-time nurses.”
McKenzie said discussions were taking place at provincial level to solve the crisis. Talks involve the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Southwest Healthcare Trust Board. The Town of Maple Creek and the RM of Maple Creek are also included.
One of the ideas is for incentive packages to encourage nurses to come to rural communities like Maple Creek.
McKenzie said Saskatchewan was not alone in experiencing problems. Alberta’s hospitals are also plagued by staffing shortages.
Concern about Maple Creek’s staffing shortage was voiced at the May 24 Town Council meeting by Councillor Betty Abbott and McKenzie.
The pair reported on their attendance at a Southwest Healthcare Trust Board meeting.
Betty Abbott said there had been discussion on how to attract and keep nurses.
“… we are working on ideas there,” she said, adding that it was good to have representation from the hospital administration.
McKenzie agreed there had been good conversations, and Council would be discussing points raised.
She said the trust board was working on initiatives on recruiting and retaining nurses “because I’m not sure if the public knows that our Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility is down three full-time nursing positions and also a half-time position”.
A critical stage had been reached where different options were being put forward, said McKenzie.
Although a contract nurse had been found, this would only provide a short-term solution.
“We should be okay until September, but that does not help us in the long run when we still need to fill those three and a half positions here in Maple Creek,” said McKenzie.
She appealed for people to identify potential candidates for the jobs, which would include nursing school graduates.
Maple Creek has a lot to offer, she said: it was a beautiful community, an hour away from Medicine Hat and Swift Current, about an hour from the US border, and four hours away from Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon.
“You are in the perfect place to start a family and build a career,” said McKenzie.
In its job notices, SHA says it is also looking to fill support services positions at the Southwest Integrated Health Care Facility in Maple Creek. These include environmental/laundry/food service workers; unit assistant; and an office administrative assistant.
The province-wide nursing shortage has been raised by Tracy Zambory, RN, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), which represents more than 11,000 registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioners and graduates in Saskatchewan.
She says the across-the-board shortage, made worse by COVID-19, is in emergency rooms and ICUs to rural and community care.
The SHA has reported that at the end of 2021 there were 647 registered nurse vacancies in the province, a number that is believed to have increased this year.
According to a SUN survey, more than four in five members reported permanent or temporary vacancies for registered nurses in their workplace, an increase over 2021. More than 89 per cent also reported that there is a shortage of registered nurses to cover absences or to meet higher service demands.
In Alberta, travel nurses contracted by private agencies are being increasingly used to fill gaps.
Although the practice has been common in northern Alberta for years, more recently hospitals in central Alberta have started turning to staffing agencies for front-line staff.
What is behind these shortages in Saskatchewan and Alberta? It has been reported that nurses are leaving the profession after losing faith in all levels of government, feeling heard and unsupported, and suffering from burnout.

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