Exodus of Nurses from Hospital in Canadian Arctic

Nurses at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit are working extra hours to maintain patient care during the staffing shortage, while agency nurses are being brought in to help, said executive director Bernie Schmidt. Image by CBC.More than a dozen nurses have left Nunavut’s main hospital, Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, in recent months.

Eleven nurses resigned from the hospital in a four-month period earlier this year, while two others have gone on maternity leave, hospital executive director Bernie Schmidt has confirmed.

“It certainly concerns me as the executive director because, I mean, we run a 24-7 operation; we need to have seamless staffing,” Schmidt told CBC News.

Schmidt said the 11 who resigned did so for personal reasons, with some citing family commitments and others wanting to move back to southern Canada.

But Schmidt said he is concerned to hear that some nurses expressed frustration with administrative issues with the Nunavut government’s human resources system, such as not being paid on time.

“When you have things like not getting your paycheque on time, not getting your retention bonus or whatever, those sorts of things cause a lot of grief for the individuals, and rightly so,” he said.

“As a system, we need to be able to respond to those things, in a timely manner, when they’re supposed to happen.”

Territory-wide problem, says union

The hospital’s payroll and human resources are managed by the territorial government.

Nunavut Employees Union president Doug Workman said there is a problem across the territory, “especially for casual nurses coming up who are [Nunavut government employees], they’re not agency, and they want to work.

“They’re prepared to spend two [or] three months, and then they don’t get paid for the time that they’re here, and that’s happened quite a bit,” Workman said.

Schmidt said he is working with Nunavut government officials outside the hospital to address the administrative problems, as well as work on recruiting and retaining more nurses.

“I want people to be upbeat and happy and positive and want to come to work and do a good job. And everybody does, right?” Schmidt said.

“So when I read some of these things about what happened, it makes me sad. It really does, you know, because to me, a lot of those things are very simple in terms of the fixes that need to occur.”

While officials work on bringing the hospital’s staffing levels back to normal, Schmidt said a full-time nurse has just arrived in Iqaluit this week, and the hospital’s remaining nurses are working extra hours to maintain patient care.

And for the first time in months, the hospital has hired temporary nurses from agencies outside the territory to help out, he added.

CBC News

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