Nurses' union wants province to recruit, retain more RNs

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union says the province has to do more to recruit and retain registered nurses.

Nurses' union president says problem particularly bad in long-term care facilities

Mona O'Shea, president P.E.I. Nurses' Union, says some of the 1,100 nurses on the Island are facing burnout. (CBC)

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union says the province has to do more to recruit and retain registered nurses. 

Union president Mona O'Shea points to an emergency room shutdown over the weekend and ongoing staff shortages in nursing homes.

Five years ago members of the union took to the streets to protest low staffing levels. Now the union president is raising the alarm again.

O'Shea says some of the Island's 1,100 registered nurses are facing burnout.

"We are just feeling very frustrated, overworked, burned out, consistently staying late after all their shifts," said O'Shea.

"We need some help from the employer to get involved here and try to help with almost a crisis situation there."

O'Shea has just completed a province-wide tour and says the problem is worse in long-term care facilities, like Charlottetown's Prince Edward Home.

Brenda Worth, Health PEI's chief nursing officer, says efforts are underway to address the problem. (Health PEI)
There, six of 13 registered nurse's jobs are vacant, despite efforts to fill them.

A lack of nurses caused Health PEI to shut down the emergency room at Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague for a few hours over the long weekend. The nurses' union says that'ss one example of the province-wide staff shortage.

Health PEI says there are pockets of shortages across the Island, but efforts are underway to address the problem.

Brenda Worth, chief nursing officer, says about 80 per cent of Island nursing graduates have stayed on the Island in recent years.

"We work closely with the university. We have recruited a number of their new graduates this year," she said.

"An annual sponsorship program brings in 18 of those new nursing graduates. And we are recruiting even over and above that."

Health PEI says it is taking some of the money for casual nurses to offer more permanent positions.

The nurses' union says it's up to the health minister to find a long-term solution.