Nurses needed to help hospitals cope with increased patient demand

Hospitals are aiming to add more critical-care and acute-care beds for patients seriously ill with COVID-19, but say the total will depend on how many nurses are available to oversee them.  

Space is available but 'it's the people we need,' says president of Kitchener, Ont., hospital

Registered nurse Jose Pasion tends to a patient in intensive care at Scarborough Health Network’s Centenary Hospital, in north-east Toronto, on April 8. Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital, is urging current and retired nurses to come forward to help during the third wave of the pandemic. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Hospitals are aiming to add more critical-care and acute-care beds for patients seriously ill with COVID-19, but say the total will depend on how many nurses are available to oversee them.

Lee Fairclough, hospital lead for Waterloo-Wellington and president of St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener, Ont., said local hospitals have recently opened 14 new intensive-care unit beds and plan to soon open 12 more, along with 30 acute-care beds.

"We still have several new physical spaces that we could open within our hospitals," Fairclough said during a media briefing on Friday, adding these could include post-surgery recovery spaces.

"But really, it's the people we need."

Fairclough said St. Mary's General Hospital has recruited nurses throughout the pandemic and has made use of a matching service through the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario.

"We are operating a third larger than we were a year ago."

Still, they need more. The hospital recently tweeted a call for current and retired nurses – in particular, those with critical- or acute-care experience – to come forward.

Grand River Hospital has also posted several nursing positions on its online career portal.

"We are supplementing our float pools to be prepared for the volumes we have been seeing, and what we anticipate will continue to come," said Jennifer O'Brien, the hospital's vice-president of human resources, in an email to CBC News.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital hopes to hire between 50 and 60 nursing positions across a variety of clinical departments, a spokesperson said in an email. These include both permanent full-time and part-time positions, and temporary/contract positions.

"Increasing the number of patients' beds to be able to treat more COVID patients necessitates the need for hiring even more qualified staff who can provide this critical care to our community. In addition, acute care capacity is expanding, so medical nurses are required as well," said spokesperson Stephan Beckhoff in the email.

Beckhoff said the hospital also plans hire more ultrasound technologists and medical radiation technologists to expand hours in its diagnostic imaging department.

While Fairclough said she doesn't have a specific hiring target in mind, hospitals are mindful of recent COVID-19 modelling that predicts high hospital admission numbers in the coming weeks.

"We're just looking for anybody who would be willing to step forward."


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