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Province announces new nurse-to-patient ratio and financial incentives to aid nurse recruitment

BC’s Ministry of Health has introduced a new nurse-to-patient ratio in its attempt to improve workloads in hospitals across the province.

The initiative, announced today (Friday), is a first in Canada and fulfills a commitment to the B.C. Nurses Union made during 2023’s contract negotiations, which established minimum ratios as a critical aspect.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a media briefing that setting nurse-to-patient ratios has shown success for both nurse retention and ensuring a high-quality standard of care internationally.

Under the new standards, a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio will be required for six areas of care, including general medicine, intensive care, palliative care, focused care, high acuity, and rehabilitation.

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The established ratios range from one nurse to four patients for general medical/surgical inpatient care to one nurse to one patient in intensive care.

Additionally, the Ministry has allocated $237.6 million to support and aid the retention, recruitment, and training of nurses throughout the province, with an emphasis on rural and in-demand areas.

For training, the province has allocated $68.1 million to support an annual $2,000 tuition credit for each new nursing student. Indigenous students will receive $5,000.

New nursing program graduates will also now receive a $500 bursary for their licensing exams, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023.

In its attempt to address the nursing shortage in rural and remote communities, the province will also be providing signing bonuses for specific rural and remote communities. The bonus for Northern communities is up to $30,000, and up to $20,000 in other rural, in-demand areas.

New or returning nurses province-wide will also receive up to a $15,000 signing bonus when they select positions with the province’s travel nursing program, GoHealth BC, starting Apr. 1, 2024.

The Ministry highlighted that between Jan. 1, 2023, and Jan. 31, 2024, 1,774 internationally educated nurses joined the province’s healthcare sector. Some of whom required additional training, while others registered as healthcare assistants or licensed practical nurses. The province said these current and future internationally educated nurses will receive additional funds for transitional or remedial education programs to obtain the required licensing in the province.

The province did not provide a timeline for the implementation of the new standards or penalties for healthcare facilities not complying with the ratios in their scheduling.

– Files from Storrm Lennie, My Kootenay Now

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