Nurses are sounding the alarm about the lack of staff available to keep Stanton Territorial Hospital’s operating room functioning the way it should, according to the Union of Northern Workers (UNW).

The union says that operating room nurses are at less than 50 per cent of a full complement and the workers have described the situation as “unsustainable.”

The affected health staff have advised their employer and the Registered Nurses Association of the NWT and Nunavut of their concerns in writing. The ordeal is causing them to struggle mentally, physically and emotionally, the UNW stated in a news release circulated on Friday.

“Last week I heard from an RN (registered nurse) who had just come off over 20 hours of work,” said Local 11 president Tina Drew. “Sadly, this is not an exceptional circumstance. Hospital management is working with the local to find solutions to ease the burden on nurses.”

Although nurses and union representatives have been communicating with hospital management frequently, more needs to be done at NWT Health and Social Services Authority to address the issues that Stanton nurses are facing, according to the UNW.

“We don’t have all the answers,” Drew said, “but we are ready and willing to work with management to find creative solutions to these difficult circumstances. Something needs to change immediately as this problem is not going away any time soon.”

The union acknowledged a global shortage of nurses, but reiterated that it has been warning the GNWT about an “impending healthcare crisis” for several years.

“We have raised these issues with the employer time and time again,” said Gayla Thunstrom, UNW president. “Unfortunately, our healthcare workers are still critically short staffed, beyond exhausted, and terrified of the risk to patients and to their own health.”

The union accused GNWT senior management of avoiding “meaningful engagement,” which has “compounded the problem.”

“We have an employer who claims it listens to its workers,” says Thunstrom, “but it continues to blindside our members and the union with media announcements and policies, without consultation or even advance notification.”

Drew added, “Our nurses are doing an amazing job, and the whole hospital is pulling together to keep things running. We strongly encourage our members to reach out to their union reps whenever they have concerns, so we can document them and bring them up during our meetings with hospital management.”

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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