British Columbia

A third of B.C. health-care workers want to quit their job in the next 2 years, poll finds

A poll conducted by the Hospital Employees Union found one in three health-care workers are likely to quit in the next two years, with three quarters experiencing pandemic-related burnout.

Health-care sector already had a staffing shortage before the pandemic began

A health-care worker is pictured at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia in January 2022. Three quarters of health-care worker respondents to a recent poll say they have experienced pandemic-related burnout. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A poll conducted by the B.C. Hospital Employees Union (BCHEU) found a third of health-care workers in the province want to quit their job in the next two years. 

The telephone survey of over 800 union members was conducted between February and March of this year. 

"I think we're looking at a potential crisis in our health-care system and we really need to deal with it because I think we all appreciate how much we need our health-care system," said Mike Old, spokesperson of the BCHEU on CBC's The Early Edition.

Old said the BCHEU conducted a similar poll last summer, where one in four respondents said they were thinking of leaving their health-care jobs. 

Since then, Old said workers have worked through COVID-19's Delta and Omicron variants.

"It's not a huge surprise, but it's something we should all be worried about." 

Three quarters of respondents to the poll said they had experienced pandemic-related burnout. Additionally, a quarter of workers said their employer rarely or never backfills positions that are vacant from illness or vacation. 

B.C.'s health-care sector had a staffing shortage before the pandemic began and it has only gotten worse since, according to Old. The most recent wave of COVID-19's Omicron variant has strained hospitals and has even led to reduced health-care services in some B.C. communities. 

The poll also found that health-care workers are also under financial stress. Of those polled, 35 per cent said they are less financially secure than they were two years ago and 26 per cent are worried their housing is at risk. 

The BCHEU is one of several unions currently negotiating a new agreement with the provincial government, as their current contract expires at the end of March. 

"There's been a lot of talk over the past two years about health-care workers and the role they play during the pandemic … Well, those heroes are now at the bargaining table and we need to take bold action."

The BCHEU covers over 50,000 health-care workers, including those in hospitals, long-term care, medical supply warehouses, pharmacies, labs and corporate offices. 

The random phone survey of 802 health-care workers took place between Feb. 22 and March 2 this year, and is accurate to within 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. It was carried out by Viewpoints Research and commissioned by the BCHEU.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gomez is a CBC writer in Vancouver. You can contact her at michelle.gomez@cbc.ca.

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