Nurses warn of 'breaking point' at Prince George hospital, the largest in northern B.C.
Nurses in Prince George are warning the largest hospital in northern B.C. is at a "breaking point," describing long waits in the emergency room and patients lined up in hallways to receive care.
Members of the B.C. Nurses Union (BCNU) held a rally outside the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (UHNBC) Thursday in an effort to draw attention to what they say is a "crisis" for both health-care workers and patients alike.
Danette Thomsen, who represents the nurses union in Prince George and northeast B.C., says she experienced the problems first-hand when she took her grandson in for emergency care earlier this year.
"We waited outside with just a security guard telling people to line up if they needed to see a doctor," she said. "It was an hour to get to a triage nurse."
WATCH | Thomsen describes long waits at the hospital in Prince George:
According to the BCNU, UHNBC is regularly operating at between 118 to 125 per cent capacity, with the ICU overloaded and patients receiving care in overflow spaces as a result.
To make matters worse, smaller emergency rooms in communities like Mackenzie, Chetwynd and Burns Lake are regularly closed due to a lack of staffing, leading to additional patients coming to Prince George from hundreds of kilometres away to receive care.
"I don't know, when a hospital's that backed up, what will happen in a state of emergency," Thomsen said.
The rally comes as B.C.'s doctors' association is warning that emergency departments across the province are facing undue pressure and calling on the government to take steps to address the issue.
In an email made public earlier this month, Doctors of B.C. described hospitals "overrun with patients and near collapse," with co-president Dr. Gord McInnes saying, "Our emergency departments are on red alert."
It also comes after findings that ERs across B.C. were closed for thousands of hours cumulatively in 2022, with closures at the time attributed by the province to staff shortages, driven by waves of sick leaves and more lasting staff retention issues, as well as the spread of COVID-19 and high levels of respiratory illness.
Thomsen said she is particularly worried about what would happen should another major hospital in the region be unable to take patients due to a natural disaster.
Just last week, more than 21,000 people in the city of Fort St. John were placed on evacuation alert due to wildfires, and Thomsen isn't sure where people from that city needing care would be able to go for help had operations been shut down.
"The rest of the province is so full that some of the diversions we were sending to Victoria, Vancouver aren't able to go," she said. "It's bigger than a quarter of the province that this hospital is taking care of."
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