PEI

Nursing shortage has 'really escalated,' says president of P.E.I. Nurses Union

Mona O'Shea, the president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union, says the nursing shortage has become a problem province-wide, with about 150 to 160 vacant positions.

'We're up to approximately 150 to 160 vacancies'

Mona O'Shea, president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union, says nursing graduates need more incentives to stay on the Island. (CBC)

The president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union says nursing shortages have become a province-wide problem.

Mona O'Shea said the situation has reached a point of crisis, in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

"It's really escalated in the last several months. I believe we're up to approximately 150 to 160 vacancies," she said.  

O'Shea said some of the vacancies are temporary, like maternity leaves, and that makes those positions more difficult to fill because permanent jobs are more attractive for people seeking work.

$1,100 signing bonus for a new grad to stay in P.E.I. for two years guaranteed work is just not enough.— Mona O'Shea, P.E.I. Nurses Union

In question period Wednesday, PC backbench MLA Cory Deagle said he's heard first-hand from nurses at King's County Memorial Hospital who said they are overworked.

He called the situation a "crisis for health care in Kings County," and questioned Health Minister James Aylward on the reasons for the high turnover rate, and what's being done to address the issue. 

Retention and recruitment

Deagle said nurses have told him they're being asked to work overtime to avoid emergency department closures.

"Nurses don't have to do overtime. They do it because they know that it's what is needed," O'Shea said. 

"But at Kings County Memorial Hospital, with the loss of a number of nurses over the last few years, they do feel the pressure of having to do the overtime."  

Once upon a time, government did pay for moving expenses, that has gone.— Mona O'Shea, P.E.I. Nurses Union

On Wednesday, Aylward said there are a number of factors that contribute to the turnover rate, including nurses being recruited to other regions and to private health-care facilities. 

He also said there are pressures on health care throughout the province, and that there are active recruitment efforts underway. 

Incentives

While O'Shea agreed that there are some recruitment efforts in place, she said it's still not enough to resolve the issue. 

"$1,100 signing bonus for a new grad to stay in P.E.I. for two years guaranteed work is just not enough compared to what's happening across the country and they're not staying — they're leaving," she said. 

O'Shea would like to see all stakeholders come together and figure out how to recruit and retain nurses on P.E.I. She said that may include creating better incentives. 

"Once upon a time, government did pay for moving expenses, that has gone," she said. 

"Can we bring that back and entice someone from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario to move to P.E.I. and take a position?" 

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC News: Compass

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