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IH closes 14-bed wing at Fischer Place

The closure comes after several nurses have retired, gone on leave or left the area entirely
Healthcare workers at Fischer Place prepare to load patient wheelchairs as the site is evacuated during the 2021 wildfire season. (Yoka Brondjik photo - submitted).

Interior Health is actively recruiting for more health care workers after having to shut down a division of Fischer Place because of staffing shortages.

The 14-bed unit has been closed for nearly three months, with several workers on medical leave, retiring or leaving the area altogether, said Lisa Zetes-Zanatta, IH executive director of clinical operations, Thompson-Cariboo. She noted that while a “handful” of health care workers have left due to the vaccine mandate, the unit was closed before it came into effect.

“There wasn’t one particular thing that toppled us over the edge,” Zetes-Zanatta said. “We’re left in a position where we have to do some recruiting to fill the vacancies as soon as possible.”

The move comes as the BC Nurses Union appeals to local MLAs to address several key challenges and a nursing shortage impacting BC’s health care system.

The BCNU said the most recent Omicron wave is responsible for record-breaking hospitalization numbers, which are taking a significant mental and physical toll on an already exhausted nursing workforce. A recent survey suggested 35 percent of all nurses said that the experience of the pandemic made them more likely to leave nursing in the next two years. “It not only affects nurses but impacts the public as well. It kind of filters down into different areas,” said Scott Duvall, regional representative for the BCNU’s Thompson-Okanagan.

Zetes-Zanatta acknowledged it’s challenging to recruit nurses, as well as care aides and support services staff to 100 Mile House given the lack of available housing and jobs outside the sector.

While there isn’t a waitlist for the 14 beds at this time, she noted that is likely to change given the aging demographic in the region and they need to find a “long-term solution.

“We closed that area so people do not have to do double-duty,” she said. “It would have put extra pressure on our nurses, care aides and staff and we don’t want to have to do that.”

She couldn’t say how many nurses, care aides and support services staff are needed, noting some have already been hired and will start in the next few months. These include experienced health care workers who have moved to the area and want to continue working. She hopes to have a full staff contingent by this spring.

“This year has been extremely challenging,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do as well. We’re working to make positions more attractive, and rotations more attractive. We are actually seeing people coming into the area. We have to be creative in how we market it.”

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