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As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many healthcare workers on Vancouver Island and across BC are exhausted and at a breaking point, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) says.

One out of three healthcare workers in the province are looking to leave the profession altogether, as per a new HEU poll that surveyed hundreds of its members over a week span.

“And we should all be very concerned about what that means for our healthcare system going forward,” said HEU secretary-business manager Meena Brisard.

The random phone survey of 802 healthcare workers, carried out by Viewpoints Research, took place between February 22nd and March 2nd.

According to the union, findings paint an “alarming picture” of the pressures facing those on the frontlines and BC’s ability to keep and recruit healthcare workers.

That’s because three-quarters of those polled have experienced pandemic-related burnout, while one in three do not believe there are adequate workplace mental health supports.

Nearly two-thirds say their workloads have gotten worse over the last two years, as a quarter report that their employer rarely backfills positions left vacant by illness or vacation.

The survey also found that some healthcare workers are having difficulty keeping up with rising costs, with more than a quarter concerned that their housing is currently at risk.

“Now is the time to recognize these workers with a wage and compensation package that puts them ahead and not behind,” said Brisard.

Reviewing survey data, Brisard’s concerned about the future of BC’s healthcare system and its ability to survive public health emergencies, climate disasters and growing populations.

It’s prompting the HEU to lead negotiations on behalf of a multi-union bargaining association with public health employers for a new collective agreement covering 58,000 workers in the facilities subsector.

“We must act boldly to retain today’s skilled and experienced health care workforce, and to attract the next generation of healthcare workers,” she added.

Last month, it was announced that 602 new nursing seats were being made available for students at public post-secondary institutions in BC, including the University of Victoria.

BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) president Aman Grewal praised the investment, saying it’s a promising step towards “addressing the staffing crisis that is currently crippling our healthcare system.”

Grewal’s also pointing to Budget 2022, which will see $3.2 billion in healthcare spending over the next three years, according to the BC government.

However, she’s “cautiously optimistic” that this commitment will ensure immediate relief for nurses struggling to provide patient care “in a healthcare system that’s in the throes of a staffing shortage.”

Earlier in February, the BCNU called for solutions for BC’s healthcare system—a plea following a survey that polled 3,500 of its members.

Its findings were on par with the HEU survey and found a staggering 51% of healthcare workers in Emergency Rooms or Intensive Care Units were ready to quit.

“On a daily basis, nurses are facing an unmanageable number of patients who need care, and despite all of their very best efforts, they’re watching their patients suffer,” added Grewal.

“As a result of this pressure, nurses are burnt out.”

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