‘We are exhausted’: Local Nurse Highlights COVID Impact at NLRHC

A registered nurse in the emergency department at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre is painting a grim picture 20 months into the pandemic.
Jo-Ann Cluney, RN and president of UNA local 96, joined NDP leader Rachel Notley in a press conference outside the hospital Thursday morning to talk about the situation.
“Our six ICU Beds are full, the additional four beds are full, and every single shift we have, we are met with more people with COVID and most have not been vaccinated – as soon as a bed becomes available there’s a new person to take it,” said Cluney.
Cluney told attendees the region is lucky there haven’t been any traumas on the highway or industrial accidents as patients would have to be shipped to Edmonton provided their ICU’s had room.
Staff are doing their best to give the standard of care patients are used to but there is an issue of short staffing.
“Our phones are blasting with all the over time shifts, we’d rather have the time off than the overtime but when you get the second or third call saying your unit is 3 people short you go in – you just have to. Then you get in there and you’re still working short staffed,” added Cluney.
While nurses from outside of Alberta are expected to arrive next week, she says it won’t offer any relief because just two more ICU beds are being opened.
“Nurses are in moral distress that they are not able to provide the high level of care we are used to.  From respiratory therapists to house keepers we are exhausted. We are barely keeping our heads above water. The hospital is at a breaking point”
Mix News reached out to Alberta Health Services for comment and they acknowledged the extreme pressure health care workers have been under for the last 20 months and encouraged all who are eligible to get vaccinated.

“We strongly urge everyone in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities to help ease the pressure on their hospital by getting immunized as quickly as possible, and by following all public health restrictions,” said the statement from Alberta Health Services

AHS also addressed short staffing saying seven healthcare workers from Newfoundland will be arriving next week, including additional nurses, a nurse practitioner and physicians.

“The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre remains a safe place to receive care – there is no increased risk to patients coming to the hospital. Any patient with symptoms, or who has tested positive for COVID-19, is isolated and treated in designated rooms,” added AHS.

As of Thursday afternoon, Fort McMurray had 332 active COVID-19 cases while the rural areas have 19.


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