The World Forum - May 23rd, 2024

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BRAIN DRAIN: Ontario nursing sector slammed with staffing shortages as many rethink their careers

With new COVID-19 case numbers dropping and vaccinations on the rise, one might think nurses across the province are now able to take a collective breath, but Umaigba said that isn’t the case.

Birgit Umaigba has been working as a registered Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse in Ontario throughout the course of the pandemic.

“Morale is low. People are so discouraged,” Umaigba told CTV News Toronto.

After working through a pandemic on the frontlines of the health-care sector understaffed and overworked, Umaigba said that nurses are at the end of their rope.

“There are not enough ICU nurses in Ontario and [many] existing, experienced nurses are taking some time off or people are just quitting because of the stress of the pandemic and very, very poor working conditions,” she said.

A Georgian Bay area nurse who chose to remain anonymous for professional reasons told CTV News Toronto that the hospital he works at is currently going through “a huge staffing shortage.”

“Last week, our ICU had only two nurses for one-on-one care overnight, so they couldn’t leave their unit to get to the lab, etc.,” he said.

“Regular units are just as bad. Our census is full for our 36-bed unit. Night shifts [have had] a single RN, with the remaining nurses managing eight to nine patients.”

He said that he noticed an increase in colleagues leaving their positions starting in the spring and that at least 16 staff have left since, adding that "the replacement process has been slow and painful."

According to recent data by Statistics Canada, the health-care and social assistance sectors had more vacancies than any other sector in January 2021.

Additionally, health-care workers reported working more hours in April 2021 than in April 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic.