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Close to 200 nurses at North Bay hospital could leave their jobs: Union

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Nurses are either leaving the profession in droves or considering leaving, according to the union representing hospital workers in North Bay.

In a demonstration outside of the North Bay Regional Health Centre Thursday morning, registered practical nurses (RPN) represented by CUPE and SEIU Healthcare addressed the concerns, calling out the province for not addressing working conditions.

Kim Hamilton, a nurse at Nipissing Manor, said she is feeling burnt out. An RPN for 35 years, she's responsible for administering medicine for 40 patients. Hamilton said nursing has never been this difficult.

"I wake up in the morning and I actually think should I call in sick but I know I can't do that,” she said.

“I have to be there for my residents and for my coworkers … I love what I do but I’m tired.”

Hamilton's story isn't unique to the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Data provided by the union found close to 60 per cent of RPNs are leaving or considering leaving their jobs.

"If we extrapolate those numbers for here, that’s 196 RPNs who are thinking or are going to be leaving,” said OCHU Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Richer.

“This hospital won't be able to cope with a mass exodus of RPNs."

The union is calling on the provincial government to implement a nurse-to-patient ratio system, like in British Columbia, so a nurse can only look after a certain number of patients at a time to smooth the burden on health care workers.

The union said the move would require more nurses to be hired. They also want wages to go up to $35/hour.

"Sometimes they come in and they have two to three sick calls and vacancies because they just can't fill the positions,” said Richer.

“Pay these nurses for what they're worth."

The North Bay Regional Health Centre's website lists a slew of nursing positions.

In an email to CTV News, the Ministry of Health said more than 60,000 new nurses and nearly 8,000 new doctors have registered to work in Ontario since the Ford government took power.

Ministry spokesperson Hannah Jensen also said 2022 was a record-breaking year for new nurses in Ontario, with more than 12,000 new nurses registered and another 30,000 nurses studying at an Ontario college or university.

“But we know more needs to be done,” Jensen said.

“Our 2023/2024 budget introduced just a few weeks ago also includes a combined $280 million investment to bolster our health care workforce across the province by further expanding training opportunities and nursing education programs at universities and colleges.”

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