BC Children's Hospital partially closed due to nurse shortage

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Stock image of child in hospital (Lopolo/Shutterstock)

BC Children’s Hospital has been forced to temporarily close a fifth of its operating rooms due to a worldwide shortage of pediatric and operating room nurses.

The hospital has had to postpone around 60 children’s elective surgeries, such as tonsillectomies and dental treatment, by a couple of weeks.

Chief operating officer Linda Lemke told Vancity Buzz the closures are about the safety of the kids first, and any children who need urgent treatment will be treated.

“My heart goes out to parents who are in this predicament and their kids… We know how difficult this is… and we’re doing everything we can to rectify this situation for them.”

Closure may last 6 months

More than 200,000 children every year are treated at the hospital, which has eight operating rooms. Two of those are now closed.

According to Lemke, they have about 40 nurses, but need 10 more before they can run at full capacity again – but it’s hard to know how long that will take.

Lemke said if they can recruit nurses who already have the specialist training needed, their shortage could be over soon. If not, it could take up to six months to provide training.

From oil patch to hospital?

Lemke says the hospital is advertising far and wide for the right people: in Ontario, on Facebook, even in the oil patch, hoping to attract qualified partners of workers left jobless.

The hospital closure certainly comes at a poignant time – National Nurses Week – and Lemke says everyone at the hospital is rallying round to help in the crisis.

“Everyone is pulling hard and rowing together to pitch in,” she said. “It’s been phenomenal collaboration in helping us work through this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, Lemke, who has been a nurse herself for 29 years, encourages anyone out there thinking of a career in nursing to pursue that dream.

“There’s not a day goes by that I regret that choice. It’s been the most exciting career opportunity that I could have ever imagined.”

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Jenni Sheppard Staff writer at Vancity Buzz. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, film fan, feminist, geek, curler.
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