The BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) is staging a Walk With Nurses, Talk With Nurses rally this Saturday in George Little Park aimed at raising awareness around challenges facing health care services because of predicted population growth in the region and budgetary strain at the provincial and federal level.
A march around town starts at 10:30 a.m. at the sidewalk in front of Mills Memorial Hospital and then there is a gathering in George Little Park downtown at 11 a.m.
Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin will be speaking along with North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice from Prince Rupert, Terrace city councillor Marylin Davies, community health nurse Michael Prevost and BCNU northwest chair Sharon Sponton.
Walk with Nurses, Talk with Nurses organizer Kathy Buell was supported by city council in a resolution passed in April in support of the rally.
Buell told council recent reductions in health care budgets will affect not just core services like nurse staffing but also agencies that provide health-related services in the community.
“I have been in nursing for 30 years and I have never heard this many nurses want to speak,” said Buell.
The ongoing resource boom which continues to bring large numbers of workers to the region is putting pressure not only on hospitals but also on support service agencies such as the Terrace and District Community Services Society (TDCSS), said Buell.
“There’s a group of nurses at the hospital and in the community who want to look at how to bring some of the issues on cutbacks in healthcare forward,” she said.
“Nurses across the northwest want a way to voice our health care concerns which are rising, especially in communities that are seeing a substantial growth in population.”
Austin said he plans to address issues surrounding the federal government’s decision not to renew the national health care accord as well as the provincial government’s slimming of health care spending in the 2014 budget.
“We’re losing $300 million a year [in B.C.] as a result of that change in the [federal] funding formula. We’ve got more seniors moving here than ever before, we’ve lost money from the federal government which would have continued had we stayed on the path of a 6 per cent annual rise,” said Austin.
BCNU chair Sharon Sponton said part of dealing with the boom will be enhancing services for those with mental disabilities and the homeless.
“As we see an influx of people coming, hospital and infrastructure have a limited amount of capacity,” Sponton continued.
“Kitimat would double in population and how do you accommodate that kind of growth?”
She said the union predicts stress on health care services for youths, disabled people and on preventative health care programs.
There are also predictions of a hike in communicable diseases.
“We are stretched and we have been for some time. Nurses have long been unable to give the kind of care they graduated wanting to deliver,” said Sponton of the situation.