Ayre Manor has taken the unusual step of placing a sign in front of Sooke elementary school in an attempt to entice nurses to join its medical staff.
“We’ve had a shortage of nurses to work on a casual basis at Ayre Manor for some time, and it certainly has the potential to cause stress to our existing staff,” said Linda Quigley, Ayre Manor’s director of care.
“It makes it difficult when staff are off sick or on vacation, and we have no pool of casual nurses to call on to fill in.”
The dearth of casual staff means staff holidays or illness can result in overtime costs for the facility as other staff are asked to work extra hours to fill the gaps.
Ayre Manor has one registered nurse and one licensed practical nurse on duty 24 hours a day for the care and safety of residents.
“Because we live out here we try to employ as many local people as we can. I’d say that about 95 per cent of our staff right now is local,” said Kerry Williams, Ayre Manor’s director of administration.
“The message we want to get out is that, even if nurses living in the community are currently working hours for [Island Health] in Victoria, for example, they can pick up hours here and skip the commute.”
But the problem actually transcends the situation in Sooke.
“I am in regular contact with other care homes (in Greater Victoria) and they’re all facing the same problem,” Quigley said.
It was recently reported that Island Health is seeking 238 registered nurses and 71 licensed practical nurses to fill 309 nursing vacancies Island-wide.
As well, Interior Health has 204 nursing positions posted, Vancouver Coastal Health has 237, and Northern Health, 204 – and those numbers don’t include postings for nurse practitioners.
In hospitals, the shortage contributes to long wait times for patients and what B.C. Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen calls “hallway nursing.”
And the situation doesn’t seem to be improving. The Canadian Institute of Health has reported that the number of B.C’s registered nurses grew by 3, 290 nurses between 2007 and 2016, but during the same period, B.C.’s population grew by 466,670.
That translates into one registered nurse for every 159 B.C. residents.
“We rely on a pool of casual nurses to maintain the high quality of service at Ayre Manor and we are keeping our fingers and toes crossed that some nurses come forward to join our team,” Quigley said.
“If we have an outbreak (of the flu for example) we’re going to need every hand we can get.”
Since placing the sign, Ayre Manor has had two applicants for the nursing positions, but Williams is quick to note that more are needed.