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Nurse shortage forces program cuts at Copper Ridge

Copper Ridge Place residents won’t be listening to mandolin licks and two-part harmonies this month.

Copper Ridge Place residents won’t be listening to mandolin licks and two-part harmonies this month.

The regular bluegrass band, which plays for an hour every second Sunday, was told the gigs were off because the facility lacks staff.

The shortage is nothing new.

“There’s basically never really a let-up of the problem,” said Copper Ridge nurse Katharina McArthur on Thursday.

“Everybody is working overtime constantly and it doesn’t really feel like you can leave town or do anything.”

McArthur, who is currently on maternity leave, worked a 24-hour shift in the fall.

“I had to work 24 hours because there was simply no one to cover  —  absolutely no one,” she said.

“And this has happened to others as well.”

Most nurses at Copper Ridge end up working additional shifts on what would have been their days off, added McArthur.

Add overwork and exhaustion to an already physical job and there are bad consequences, she said.

“Staff are not happy and have a short fuse and this leads to problems.

“Everybody is trying to pull on the same string and make the patients comfortable. And we’re doing our best to not let the patients feel it at all.

“But if you have tired staff with really not a lot of strength to do your job, then obviously your work is going to suffer.”

An internationally trained nurse, McArthur moved to Canada from Germany in 2004.

“And it took me 15 months to start working here,” she said.

“It just took forever.

“And I’m thinking, if the shortage is so bad, why would they make it so difficult for you?”

There seems to be a huge problem with the hiring process, added McArthur.

“I know people who are interested in working here and have put in their applications and waited for months to hear back from human resources, and I don’t understand that.”

In January, after being open only three months, a new 12-bed wing at Copper Ridge was forced to close because the territory failed to recruit adequate staff.

“We opened the new wing, hired staff and had three residents who’d moved in, then six of the seven nurses changed their minds, so we had to assimilate those residents back into the other pods,” said Health spokesperson Pat Living on Friday.

At the time, nurses have told the News that stressful working conditions were deterring new nurses from moving north.

“Because we were expecting these new nurses and they didn’t arrive, nurses (at Copper Ridge) have stepped forward and covered these shifts,” said Living.

“I don’t think it’s any different now than it has been,” she added.

“People come, people go.

“I know they have new nurses that have signed on and will be starting in the next four to five weeks.”

Living didn’t know exactly how many nurses Copper Ridge needs.

“My manager has gone on several recruitment trips out east and it hasn’t really panned out that much, so I don’t know,” said McArthur.

“I’m happy to be off right now.”