After months of visiting Kingston General Hospital, one mother says she is worried about the lack of staff in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit after she had to take on the responsibility of caring for her sick child.
Vanessa Iwimi’s daughter Ivy Murray has a gene mutation called SNC2A that is known to cause early-onset epilepsy and developmental delay.
The three-year-old’s symptoms include seizures, which Ivimi said worsened in April this year after the family tested positive for COVID-19.
They spent more than 40 nights in the hospital from April to July, and Ivimi said she witnessed an alarming shortage of staff during that time.
“I see nurses having to make decisions about which baby to take care of first,” she said, adding that on most days she had four nurses who served both the regular pediatric inpatient unit and the intensive care unit.
“Definitely there is never a lot of staff when you feel like…they can adequately help you and your child.”
WATCH | Parents sound the alarm over shortage of staff at Kingston General Hospital’s pediatric ward
Loss of confidence in the medical system
Ivimi said the lack of medical staff forced her to take care of her daughter into her own hands.
Noticing that her daughter was not getting the medicine she needed on time, Ivimi said she started bringing medicine from home.
She also decided to learn how to use the oxygen machine that her daughter needed when she had seizures.
On one such occasion, she said she called for help and her daughter “turned blue.”
“No one came…so I ran back to our room and did what I saw the other nurses do. I laid her on her side, turned on the oxygen machine. I put the mask on her face. breathe properly,” she said.
Ivimi blames these cases not on hospital staff or nurses, but on the medical system as a whole.
“To think that the children’s department is not worthy of the same care that other departments receive is very difficult not to get angry,” she said, adding that she feels compassion for the overworked staff.
The experience has taken a toll on Ivimi’s mental health, and she says it’s hard for her to focus on caring for her daughter.
Hospitals are facing severe staffing shortages
The Kingston Health Sciences Center said the hospital is one of many in the country facing acute staffing shortages across departments and programs, including pediatrics.
“This shortage is the result of a number of factors,” the hospital said in a statement, listing absenteeism, early retirement and staff leaving the healthcare industry as some of the reasons.
While the medical center is actively recruiting to fill vacancies, a shortage of qualified medical workers across the province is making the job difficult.
The hospital invites anyone with concerns to contact the Patient Relations team.
Ivimi said she didn’t do it because she fears her concerns would be misunderstood.
“They have phenomenal nurses and a social worker and administrative staff who are trying very hard, and I always worry that it might look like I’m saying the staff isn’t doing their job,” she said. said.
“This is not true”.
Do something now, the union says the province
Doris Grinspoon, CEO of the Association of Registered Nurses of Ontario (RNAO), said Ontario was already short of 22,000 registered nurses before the pandemic hit, and the shortage has only worsened, forcing nurses to work harder to fill the shortfall.
“If something is not done on the merits very, very soon, there may be a place of no return,” she said.
In a few months it may be too late.– Doris Grinspoon, RNAO CEO
Grinspoon said the RNAO survey shows 75% of nurses have burned out, while more than half are considering giving up patient care or leaving the profession altogether.
“That’s why families are in a situation where they have to start doing part of the care because nurses have a double, triple load,” Grinspoon added.
For the association, these decisions include raising bonuses, lifting salary caps, and speeding up licensing for internationally trained nurses to reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
Grinspoon said bringing in retired nurses as mentors would also help ease the burden, as well as bring in more nurse practitioners to support hospital staff.
“Now is the time because in a few months it may be too late,” she said.