Our health care system in Cowichan is in crisis

Shawnighan Lake – When I first read the March 20 “Canada’s health care system under threat” article, I was ecstatic that FINALLY the dire health care situation was printed in our local paper for all our community to read and learn from. Over a month since it was printed and I cannot find any comments with regards to the article and honestly, I am appalled and disappointed.

I LOVE nursing and it saddens me to think I may need to find another job. I am a hard-working, caring RN, just like all the other hard working, awesome nurses at CDH, fighting for you, our community. But our stamina, our drive, our daily FIGHT to keep you and ourselves safe (because nurses still are wives/husbands, mothers/fathers, who need to be there for our own families) is growing harder day by day. Why, you ask?

In 2010 the number of seniors age 75-plus in Cowichan was approximately 6,914. The forecast at that time was a 30 per cent increase by 2016.

Our hospital is already bursting at the seams. Cowichan Valley does not have enough nursing home facilities to accommodate our fast-expanding seniors community. Nor do we have enough mental health and addiction facilities to accommodate our young, middle-aged and seniors.

We don’t have a 24 hour palliative care response team, we don’t even have a palliative care unit in our Valley. We don’t have enough community nursing available…NOT because we don’t have enough nurses – we have an abundance of unemployed nurses – Island Health are just not producing any positions.

We (Cowichan District Hospital) now get FINED if an admitted patient is not out of Emergency within 10 hours. That means someone may be discharged early or rooms are opened while trying to find nurses to man the beds we don’t have… all for the premature discharges to come back into Emergency a day or two later and for the cycle to continue. Not to mention housecleaning and kitchen – substantial cuts made there already.

As stated in the above-mentioned article; “The Harper government will start a $36 billion cut in payments of the Canada Heath Transfer [CHT] starting in 2017 for 10 years in addition to the elimination of the equalization of the CHT which effectively reduces transfers by another $16.5 billion.”

We have aggressive/agitated/angry dementia patients sharing rooms with palliative patients, cancer patients, addict patients detoxing, mental health patients with medical issues, infectious respiratory patients, and homeless patients with too many issues to be housed anywhere, staying in acute medical wards months shy of a year…the list goes on.

We also, thanks to CDMR/Island Health, have twice the amount of work in a steadily increasingly unsafe work environment, with less hands to help, because our government sees public health care as an unimportant issue. We have old beds that don’t work, toilet doors that open out into the hallway, missing parts on overhead BP cuffs, light fixtures that need replacing or fixing, holes in linen, not enough linen, our windows let cold air in all year round, we run out of urinals and bedpans, TWO SHOWERS for 40 patients etc.

Our job comes with morally distressing events that occur every day that we are unable to actively change in a timely fashion because our verbal/written complaints, our professional responsibility forms, our rallies, our persistent voices are ignored, time and time again.

Nurses are retiring early, seeking new ventures with less stress and demand on our mental and physical well-being. My community has no idea that front line nurses care for your family member like one of our own. It is not unusual for a nurse to finish their exhausting 12 hour shift only to go home and think about their patients and what more can be done for them, while our own families suffer from our burnout.

We cannot win this fight alone. We need you to care for your health, your grandparents’, your children’s, aunt, uncle, friends’, neighbours’, AND, your nurses’ health. We are ALL part of this beautiful Cowichan Valley community, please, let’s help each other out when it is overwhelming to do so alone.

Abi Nielsen

Shawnighan Lake