Veteran Edmonton nurse on staffing shortages, skyrocketing COVID-19 patients: ‘It’s devastating’

Pauline Worsfold has been a nurse in Edmonton for 40 years. She’s seen a thing or two in her career and says the current tsunami of COVID-19 patients filling up Alberta hospitals is like nothing she’s ever experienced before.

“It’s more than bleak —  it’s devastating,” she said with tears in her eyes Friday morning, attending an event put together by the United Nurses of Alberta.

Read more: ‘It’s scary’: nurse explains what it’s like to be redeployed to the ICU during COVID-19 pandemic

She pleaded with Albertans, saying the crisis is out of the control of health-care workers.

“We need help and we’re not the front line anymore. The public is the front line now.

“It’s up to you — each and every one of you out there to do your part, to keep every single person safe: your family, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbour and us nurses.”

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Each day, more and more Albertans are dying from COVID-19 and Worsfold said they are more than statistics.

“When you see those numbers every night on the news, those are real people with real families.”

Read more: Alberta seeing 18-20 COVID-19 ICU admissions a day: AHS

This week, the chief medical officer of health spoke of 24 deaths being reported to Alberta health in a 24-hour period.

“That’s nothing. You should hear the stories. A lot of us are prevented from speaking out,” Worsfold said.

“We have patients who are 57 years old: came to the hospital, died 48 hours later — unvaccinated. Her 34-year-old daughter came within a week — unvaccinated. She will probably die this week, if she hasn’t died already,” she said tearfully, adding there are now four children that have no grandmother and soon could lose their mom too.

“They’re not just numbers, they’re people.”

Global News has reached out to Alberta Health Services on the claim that nurses are being prevented from speaking out. This story will be updated if a response is received.

While the seriousness of pandemic has waned for some COVID-weary Albertans, for 19 months doctors, nurses and health-care workers have remained on high alert.

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Worsfold said the non-stop stress is taking a toll.

“We’re tired of being tired. We’re tired of being asked to come to work. I was just lucky to get today off. I was originally supposed to work,” she said.

Read more: Burnt-out health-care workers prepare to take on Alberta’s COVID-19 patients

United Nurses of Alberta members drove past Edmonton’s hospitals to protest what they say is a lack of government action to fix staffing shortages in health-care system on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Global News

Alberta nurses say they are done asking for a fair deal: that was the message Friday as dozens loaded up for a convoy around Edmonton to speak out about the state of health-care in Alberta.

“The other thing is we’re done asking. We’re now demanding,” said Worsfold, explaining nurses want safer patient to staff ratios and more nurses to spread the workload.

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“We’re demanding more help.”

Members of the United Nurses of Alberta drove past all the city’s major hospitals to protest what the union says is a “lack of government action to fix the critical nursing shortage and urge improvements to Alberta’s beleaguered health-care system.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta nurses call for action on nurse shortage' Alberta nurses call for action on nurse shortage

Alberta nurses call for action on nurse shortage

The UNA event began with a rally in the morning in Mill Woods and departed at 10 a.m.

Read more: Nurses, doctors struggle with low morale during 4th COVID-19 wave: ‘Everybody is shattered’

The planned route saw a convoy drive by and show their support to nurses and health-care staff the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital, University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton General Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital.

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Friday’s convoy is part of the National Day of Action organized by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

Nurses have held several events over the summer months, raising awareness about planned wage rollbacks in a new collective agreement that the province has since dropped.

In recent months, both doctors and nurses in Alberta have spoken out about burnout, low morale and shortages that were affecting staffing even before Alberta’s fourth wave of COVID-19 ramped up to the critical point it’s now at.

Read more: ‘Nurses feel let down,’ picket against Alberta government’s proposed rollbacks

Alberta Health spokesperson Steve Buick said the ministry recognizes the situation in hospitals is very serious.

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“We’re supporting (Alberta Health Services) in taking any measure needed to increase capacity to get through this crisis and make sure patients get safe care,” he said in a statement to Global News.

“We thank the nurses and others who are working extraordinarily hard to care for patients, and we feel for patients who are seeing procedures postponed to free up staff to increase ICU capacity.”

Buick said the one sure way out of the crisis is to increase Alberta’s vaccination rate.

“We’re taking aggressive steps to do that, including allowing businesses and other organizations to require proof of vaccination from their customers.

“We urgently need Albertans who have put off getting vaccinated to make the right choice, right now.”

United Nurses of Alberta members drove past Edmonton’s hospitals to protest what they say is a lack of government action to fix staffing shortages in health-care system on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Global News

The UNA said its members are being asked to contact their MLA to raise concerns about understaffing and post about it on social media.

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The United Nurses of Alberta represents more than 30,000 registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and allied workers in Alberta.

Click to play video: 'New proposal eliminates some wage rollbacks for Alberta nurses as negotiations continue' New proposal eliminates some wage rollbacks for Alberta nurses as negotiations continue

New proposal eliminates some wage rollbacks for Alberta nurses as negotiations continue – Sep 8, 2021

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