Northern B.C. patients wait just to get on a wait list as HR reports show doctor shortage continues
Bob Storey is waiting to be placed on the waiting list.
Walking with a limp and using a cane, the longtime resident of Fraser Lake, BC, is scheduled to see a doctor about osteoarthritis in his hip in January 2023. It’s been nine months waiting for an appointment. He is hoping for a hip replacement, but he will have to wait longer for that.
The town, located about 160 kilometers west of Prince George, BC, is part of Northern Health, where the average wait time for a hip replacement is the longest among BC health authorities and more than twice as long. pair provincial average.
“If you’re rich enough, you can go somewhere else and get the job done, when you don’t have the money you have to hang on,” he said.
Storey’s experience is not uncommon in BC’s vast Northern Health agency, which covers a larger geographical area than France, where waiting times for surgery are long and demand for services is high. in response to a significant increase in supply, according to the agency latest human resource report.
If you’re rich enough you can go somewhere else and get the job done, when you don’t have money you have to hang on.– Bob Storey, long wait to get hip replacement surgery at BC’s Northern Health
The report, presented at a public board meeting in mid-October, showed more than 20% of the health sector’s baseline positions – the minimum number of nurses or medical staff needed in a department or unit to meet the patient’s needs – not being met.
The organization says it is currently meeting most of the hours needed for shifts with its current workforce, a strategic nursing union argued to be unsustainable.
The report also notes that healthcare workers are leaving the organization at roughly the same rate they were employed.
The numbers are not as shocking as they once were for Paul Adam, a spokesman for the BC Rural Health Network, a group he says represents the voice of 1.5 million rural residents in the region. conscious.
“It’s widespread, and I don’t know if it gives us any consolation about corporate-loving wrets, but it’s endemic across Canada, across the countryside,” Adam said. Canadian village,” Adam said.
New numbers provide the latest look at The ongoing health care crisis in Canada.
The shortage of GPs has a ripple effect
Dr David Nelson, an orthopedic surgeon based in Prince George, BC, said staff and resource shortages affect Canadians across the country, but failures in care Health is often increased in rural and remote communities. , about 800 kilometers north of Vancouver.
Before the COVID pandemic began, the average waiting time for patients to see Nelson was six months. Now, he says it’s too long to count.
“We try as hard as we can to amputate these patients and get the one who can’t get out of bed first, but it’s very difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to see so many patients in such a way that they can’t enjoy life.”
Surgeon who is among the specialists to sign an open letter to BC’s Minister of Health about a million patients are waiting to see a specialist in the province, said many medical staff are doing their best to manage with the resources they have.
Almost one million people of British Columbus nor a family doctor, which Nelson says affects specialized medicine.
He said his patients see their GPs less often, and as a result, when he sees them, they may have “some medical problems that will affect their surgery,” including including unmanaged diabetes, significantly. problems with arthritis and immobility.
All the things Nelson said could lead to poorer results.
New staff inexperienced, report shows
One of the HR trends facing Northern Health (NH) is the experience level of many new employees.
Nearly 50% of new hires are recent graduates, according to a recent HR report. The largest facility in the area, the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, is also a teaching hospital.
The report notes that because these new hires “require enhanced support, direction, and mentoring,” more people are needed to support them during the shift, which affects staff levels. .
Further follow-up has also found that new hires are unlikely to stay in the region, as many seek career development outside of Northern Health. The report shows that about half of new employees will leave the organization within three years.
It said that since 2019, the organization’s workforce has grown in demand by 11% even though supply has grown by less than 2%. The administration is also expected to see an increase in the number of laid-off workers over the next few years.
The report highlights that hiring alone is unlikely to solve the HR problem and that more effective retention strategies are needed to address the barriers that workers face.
Issues such as childcare, housing and transportation assistance are part of the new Northern Health initiatives listed in the HR report.
Patients say pandemic has changed care
In early October, CBC News spoke to a number of people outside the University Hospital in Prince George, a hub for specialized health services.
Randy Reiter said he noticed a change in the type of care provided there when COVID started. Employees don’t have as much time to “touch the premises” as before or after appointments, he said.
Another woman, Louise Demoray, still wears the hospital bracelet after her September stay at University Hospital. She said she received a neck brace during her stay, but has not received any follow-ups since she was discharged, despite requesting them.
The health authority has acknowledged in numerous staffing reports that the COVID pandemic means a “significant increase in workload”.
In light of complaints about care at Northern Health, a spokesperson said patients should contact NH’s Office of Patient Care Quality if they are concerned to ensure any necessary changes can be made. which device.
Location shouldn’t dictate care levels, residents say
Dorothy Fitzpatrick’s husband has been waiting for a knee replacement for two years.
The couple, who live in Fraser Lake, BC, are careful not to give too much importance to the health care they have access to. They, like many others CBC News spoke to, are grateful for any interest they may receive in their small community. However, Fitzpatrick said her husband’s pain was getting worse and that the pain in his “good knee” almost overcame the bad pain.
“Now it’s a question of which one should be first,” she said. “Maybe not what we think.”
Fitzpatrick says it’s “disturbing” how difficult it is for people to see a doctor there and thinks it shouldn’t be so hard just because they live in a rural community.
Storey, also from Fraser Lake, said staff shortages are becoming increasingly worrying and many people live in the hope that shortages in care won’t affect them.
“Just because we live in a small community doesn’t mean we should do without,” he said. “We didn’t make it without help until the last few years.”