Shortage of patient beds putting pressure on nurses, union says

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union says a shortage of beds for patients at the Island's two largest hospitals continues to be an issue.

Health PEI says it's trying to recruit and retain more nurses

P.E.I. Nurses' Union president Barbara Brookins says some people are waiting days in the ER for an in-patient bed. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union says a shortage of beds for patients at the Island's two largest hospitals continues to be an issue.

Union president Barbara Brookins says in some cases people are waiting in an ER bed for days to be admitted to a hospital unit, when policies say it should be no more than 24 hours.

She said staffing shortages are affecting acute care units at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown and the Prince County Hospital in Summerside.

"Sometimes people will spend their entire hospital stay in an emergency department," she said. "It increases the level of anxiety knowing your beds are all full or you are basically running a separate unit within an emergency room when you have a lot of patients waiting for in-patient beds so it's a lot of pressure to put on the staff."

20 at QEH's ER waiting for bed

Officials with Health PEI said there are currently 20 people in the QEH ER waiting to be admitted to a unit. 

In the meantime, Health PEI is working to move patients out of the QEH and PCH if there are beds available in other hospitals across the province.

Health PEI also recently reopened Unit 3, which was being reserved for potential COVID-19 patients, to take patients from the ER and those waiting for a long-term care bed. 

It said it continues work to recruit more staff, and while the nurses' union said that's important, there needs to be more focus on retention and creating more permanent positions.

Brookins said Health PEI also needs to ensure staff are managing reasonable workloads, and are guaranteed certain hours, benefits and time off. 

The PEINU represents more than 1,250 registered nurses and nurse practitioners working in acute care, long-term care, community care, mental health and addictions. 

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