Christine Sorensen has officially been named President of the BC Nurses Union.
She replaces Gayle Duteil who had been placed on leave last fall after numerous allegations of improper conduct.
Sorensen has since been acting in this role since last fall.
As for what this means for healthcare in Prince George, Sorenson says a couple of issues within University Hospital need to be addressed.
“They are struggling with staffing issues up there, struggling with overcapacity especially at the University Hospital but also recruitment and retention issues and all of these things were identified in the Attorney General’s report on northern health care.”
“We are going back up to Prince George in the middle of June to have a second meeting with the executive leadership team within Northern Health and try and solve some of these problems or at least turn our minds to how we work together at fixing some of these issues.”
She adds there are unique challenges in the north because of recruitment and retention but also the complexity of the patients, which has now caused a burden on the acute care system.
Getting nurses to come and stay in the north, especially in the more rural and remote communities has been challenging to say the least over the past several years.
Sorensen is open to trying anything and everything at this point to try and turn the tide.
“I don’t think we can rely on traditional ways of recruitment and retention, I do know Northern Health has been working with communities up there to look at recruitment and retention issues even up to the point of considering housing and how to provide family supporters for people who may be coming with their families – not all of our new graduate nurses are young and single, many of them have families and children, other careers and other interests.”
“We’re well attuned and we’re very concerned about what’s going on in the north and that the people who live there deserve the same level of care as the rest of the province and we’re fully committed to making sure the nurses are safe when they go to work and they can provide the care the current standards provide them to do.”
The newly-elected President also faces some internal challenges within the organization, which occurred during Duteil’s watch.
“We need to rebuild relationships with our external stakeholders so the health authorities and other unions and certainly with the government. We are moving forward to bargaining a new agreement with our 47,000 members.”
“We really have turned a corner and this is an opportunity for us to focus on the future and focus on what’s in the best interest of our nurses, the members that we serve and the patients of British Columbia.”
Sorensen will now hold her title at the 47,000 member union until the next election takes place in 2020.