A new report from BC’s Auditor General indicates Northern Health is falling far short of its goals to recruit and retain nurses.
Carol Bellringer’s audit found that as of April, 2017 Northern Health was short 121 registered nurses or 15 per cent of its rural and remote workforce and that over a quarter of all its nurse practitioner positions were vacant.
The numbers are even worse in certain regions. Seven local health areas were short more than 20% of their workforce, including Upper Skeena, Nechako, Smithers, Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, Peace River North and Terrace.
She says the shortages are taking a toll with unmet patient needs, safety risks, nurse burnout, and high costs for Northern Health.
Bellringer says external factors affecting recruitment and retention are out of Northern Health’s hands.
But Bellringer says the health authority can make improvements to internal factors like support for RNs joining inter-professional teams, the distribution of RN education programs in Northern BC, and training for nurse managers.
The Auditor General’s report made nine recommendations for Northern Health, including a more effective health human resource plan and and an RN recruitment strategy with clear goals and performance measures to assess progress.
While Bellringer notes Northern Health has implemented many good recruitment and retention strategies, it has done little to track performance to see if they’re actually paying off.