The Independent Expert Nursing Panel has published a report on the status of Kingston General Hospital’s mental health and addictions unit.
Angela Preocanin, the Ontario Nurses Association’s Vice President, said staff are overworked and have to consistently deal with violence from patients in the unit.
“They’ve seen some really, really horrible things, and they’ve suffered because of it,” said Preocanin.
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The panel says the unit needs immediate attention and change in order to provide proper care and protect the nurses working in the ward.
“The safety of the unit did not allow for them to be able to provide quality patient care,” said Preocanin. “Staffing shortages and the violence on the unit is concerning.”
One of the main points made by the report was to address the staffing shortages through recruitment and retention of nurses.
Kingston Health Sciences Centre says they worked alongside the panel in this report, and will be reviewing the points made while still working on addressing the needs of staff.
“Recruitment and retention of nurses at Kingston Health Sciences Centre has been a challenge. We’re working diligently to recruit, as well as work on retention strategies for our staff,” said Jason Hann, the Chief Nursing Executive at KHSC.
Deb Lefebvre is a registered nurse who works in a mental health ward.
She says the stress and mental health issues are big reasons why nurses are quitting in record numbers.
“The level of burnout and emotional fatigue… It takes a great deal of emotional labour to develop these relationships with our patients. It’s understandable how mental health nurse professionals are leaving the profession,” said Lefebvre.
Lefebvre says the issues at KHSC aren’t unique.
“The workload, patient safety and risks are similar right across Ontario, if not Canada, for that matter,” said Lefebvre. “I don’t believe any hospital or health care setting is immune to the nursing shortage at this point in time.”
Both Lefebvre and Preocanin describe the panel report as a ‘last resort’, and they both say immediate action needs to be taken to address the issues to avoid an even worse crisis in the months and years to come.