A CBC investigation indicates an epidemic of burnout and underfunding in Canada's health care system, and a Hamilton nurse says the local system is no different.
Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses' Association and a nurse with St. Joseph's Healthcare for more than 30 years, says local nurses struggle with long hours and understaffing, which leads to disillusionment with the profession.
"Nurses are really committed to being on the front line, but they've had their fill," Haslamn-Stroud said. "They're very frustrated. No matter how much they're advocating for patients, the bottom line is we need to balance the budget."
Haslam-Stroud was reacting to an investigative series by CBC's the fifth estate this week, which revealed that nearly a quarter of nurses would not recommend their hospitals to family and friends.
The result stems from a survey of more than 4,500 registered nurses from more than 250 hospitals. About 60 per cent said their departments didn't have enough staff for them to properly do their jobs.
Nearly 40 per cent said they suffered burn out "to a high degree."
The results "didn't surprise me at all," said Haslam-Stroud. The result of budget cuts and understaffing shows in "the death and disease rate of our patients."
Among the challenges: nurses who go on maternity leave or retire and aren't replaced. Increased workloads as hospital budgets are cut by upper levels of government.
For every additional patient added to a nurse's workload, the death and disease rates increase by 7 per cent, Haslam-Stroud said.
And "I don't think Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) or St. Joe's is immune," she said.
Kirsten Krull, vice-president of professional practice and chief nursing executive at HHS, is aware of the strain.
"The strain of our health care system has been felt for a while, so I certainly was not surprised," she said of the fifth estate findings.
"It is a complex issue, and it's not going to get easier as populations get older."
- Rate My Hospital: a fifth estate investigation
- Hamilton hospitals rate at average or below in national CBC study
HHS struggles with a 104-per-cent occupancy rate. In the past, traffic would wax and wane at the hospital, she said. Now, there are no lulls in the load on the system.
HHS tries to quickly hire to fill vacancies, and provide training to help staff deal with the challenges. But the answers are not easy, especially when they involve tax dollars, she said.
"[Health care] is always in competition with other needs in our community, whether it's schools or other services. It's hard to meet everybody's needs," she said. "Health care is expensive with drugs and technologies and so on. They all contribute. They're complex issues."