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No solution yet in Boundary nursing shortage

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There is no end in sight to staffing problems at Boundary Hospital that have led to the temporary closure of acute care beds, Grand Forks city council heard this week.

Councillor Everett Baker reported that he met with Interior Health officials recently along with mayor Brian Taylor, councillor Cathy Korolek, CAO Duncan Redfearn, and MLA Roly Russell to get a first-hand understanding of the problem.

Since March 23, Interior Health has not been admitting patients to Boundary Hospital. It says it needs to find five more registered nurses before it can reopen the unit, but it’s unknown how long that might take. Job postings have been up since January.

The health authority is transporting people who need to be sent to other hospitals in the meantime, but those patients are on their own to get home once they are discharged, Baker said.

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He added that the unavailability of housing and child care in the community are both contributing to the challenge.

Baker also said the health authority said the old nurses residence at the hospital is “beyond repair” and will be demolished. That came as a surprise to councillor Christine Thompson who said a few years ago they were told there wasn’t much that had to be done to bring it up to code.

But Taylor said even if that was the case, it probably wouldn’t be much use in attracting staff, as it is no longer considered acceptable housing to nursing grads.

“These women and men are highly professional, so things like trailers are not acceptable,” Baker said.

“Many of them have opportunities throughout the province and Canada. So we have to be competitive to make sure they are attracted to Grand Forks, which we all know is the best place in the world to live, hence we live here. We just have to communicate that to health staff.”

Interior Health recruiters have talked to the city about what materials it can provide and Baker said council will have to discuss what other incentives they might be able to offer prospective employees.

He said he appreciated community members who have sent him leads on possible accommodation for health professionals, which he has passed on.

“We are not taking this situation lightly,” Baker said. “This is a major concern. But I am confident that we will find a solution in an extremely timely manner. It’s incumbent upon us to do so.”

“This is not a tolerable situation for us to last any length of time,” Taylor added. “We know the disruptive nature of this. So all of our resources are going into finding a solution.”

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