NL Gazette

Potential surgery postpones arriving this summer as nurses struggle 

Nfld and Labrador

Key takeaways:

  • The nursing think tank has some thoughts — including temporary operating room shutdowns.
  • In mid-March, the surgical backlog at St. Clare’s and the Health Sciences Centre was about 6,000 patients.

More surgery could be postponed this summer as Newfoundland and Labrador struggle with an overworked and understaffed healthcare system. 

Speaking to journalists at a press conference Tuesday, Registered Nurses’ Union president Yvette Coffey described closing down some operating rooms as “the last resort” but stated it was something they had to do last summer when they shut some ORs to give nurses some time off.

“It’s been a turbulent couple of years,” she said before mentioning a survey of almost 700 nurses and nurse practitioners. Half of the respondents said they’ve considered leaving to become casual.

“We need to prevent that bleeding because we will have to close down services if we lose more registered nurses,” she stated. “We cannot keep going on the back of registered nurses and other healthcare providers. The required overtime — the 24-hour shifts — is rising every day, and we cannot support that. It’s not safe for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and it’s not safe for patients.”

Read more: N.L. readies for the arrival of Ukrainians escaping war

This summer, more surgery could be postponed

Coffey, along with Premier Andrew Furey and Health Minister John Haggie, talked about what they’re calling a nursing think tank — a string of meetings between healthcare officials and nursing staff to figure out short- and long-term answers to the staffing shortage.

Some apply ideas on child care and give people the power to self-schedule to plan days off in advance.

Coffey said another idea would be to allow people to fill in the blanks on a schedule six weeks in advance, so nurses will know the plan and consequently put in for time off.

But she said there’s likely to close some operating rooms, which would mean more surgical uncertainties.

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