After months of attending Kingston General Hospital, a mother says she is concerned about a staff shortage in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit after taking on nursing duties for her sick child.
Vanessa Ivimey’s daughter Ivy Murray has a gene mutation called SNC2A, which is known to cause early epilepsy and developmental delays.
The three-year-old’s symptoms include seizures, which Ivimey said worsened in April this year after the family tested positive for COVID-19.
The two spent more than 40 nights in hospital between April and July, and Ivimey said she had witnessed a troubling staff shortage during that time.
“I see nurses have to make decisions about which child to care for first,” she said, adding that most days she counted four nurses to cover both the regular pediatric ward and the intensive care unit.
“It is certainly never a copious amount of staff where you feel… they are capable enough to help you and your child.”
VIEW | Parent raises alarm about staff shortages in pediatric ward at Kingston General Hospital
Losing trust in the medical system
Ivimey said the lack of nursing staff forced her to take care of her daughter into her own hands.
After noticing that her daughter was not getting the necessary medicines on time, Ivimey said she started taking medicines from home.
She also decided to learn to use the oxygen machine her daughter needed when she started having seizures.
In one of those cases, she said she was buzzing for help and her daughter was “turning blue.”
“No one came…so I ran back to our room and did what I saw the other nurses doing. I laid her on her side, I turned on the oxygen machine. I put the mask over her face. I made sure she breathe well,” she said.
Ivimey doesn’t blame the hospital staff or nurses for these cases, but rather the medical system as a whole.
“To think that the pediatric ward is not worthy of the same care as the other wards, it is very difficult not to get angry,” she said, adding that she feels compassion for the overworked staff.
The experience has taken its toll on Ivimey’s mental health, and she said it makes it challenging to focus on caring for her daughter.
Hospitals with acute staff shortages
The Kingston Health Sciences Center said the hospital is one of several across the country facing critical staff shortages in all departments and programs, including pediatrics.
“This shortage is the result of a number of factors,” the hospital said in a statement, listing absences, early retirements and staff leaving healthcare as some of the reasons.
While the health center is actively recruiting to fill vacancies, a lack of trained caregivers across the province has made it difficult.
The hospital advises everyone to contact the patient relations team.
Ivimey said she hasn’t because she’s afraid her concerns will be misunderstood.
“They have phenomenal nurses and a social worker, and administrative staff who try really hard, and I’m always afraid it will come across as if I’m saying the staff aren’t doing their job,” she says. said.
“That is not the case.”
Do something now, union says to province
Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said Ontario was already short of 22,000 registered nurses before the pandemic began and that the shortage has only gotten worse, putting a higher workload on nurses to make up for the shortage. .
“Unless something substantive is done very, very quickly, there may be a place where there is no turning back,” she said.
In a few months it may be too late.– Doris Grinspun, CEO of RNAO
Grinspun said a survey by the RNAO found that 75 percent of nurses experience burnout, while more than half are considering leaving patient care or leaving the profession altogether.
“This is why families are put in a situation where they have to start doing some of the care because nurses have a double, triple workload,” Grinspun added.
For the association, those solutions include increasing bonuses, repealing pay caps and speeding up licensing processing for internationally trained nurses to ease the strain on the healthcare system.
Grinspun said bringing in retired nurses to act as mentors would also help ease the burden, as well as bring in more nurses to support hospital staff.
“Now is the time because, you know, in a few months it might be too late,” she said.