Health Minister John Haggie says nursing positions in areas like the Janeway’s Intensive Care Unit are highly specialized and difficult to fill when demand is high.
The Minister was responding to concerns raised this week by a Spaniard’s Bay mother who observed nurses in the ICU having to pull four 24-hour shifts while her daughter was receiving care over a two-week period this month.
Amie Richards says the unit has six beds, but reached capacity at three beds because of nurse staffing levels. That meant some patients had to be flown out of province for care.
Anthony Sutton’s four-year-old son Owen was one of them. Owen’s parents learned he had to undergo heart surgery after a pediatrician at the Carbonear General Hospital discovered a problem.
Sutton, who is from Victoria, says the surgery kept getting cancelled because they were told there was no room at the Janeway. They had to fly out to Halifax for surgery at IWK or wait until the end of the month for surgery.
He says the difference between IWK and the Janeway was “night and day.” While he praised the staff at the Janeway, he says the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Sutton is out of pocket for the airfare and other expenses, although his son and wife are covered.
Eastern Health says it was the first time in at least 10 years that patients at the Janeway’s ICU had to be flown out of province. Staffing in the unit is based on its average annual occupancy rate of 38 per cent. Occupancy fluctuates with a two-week period in March in which there were no patients in the ICU.
Health Minister John Haggie says part of the problem is filling the nursing positions themselves. He says they are highly specialized positions and it’s challenging to fill vacancies although they are still recruiting.
Anthony Sutton spoke with VOCM News Director Linda Swain. Listen below: