DAWSON CREEK -- Nurses in Dawson Creek rallied in front of the city’s hospital Tuesday.

They were calling on Northern Health to take action and address the nursing shortage in the Peace Region.

The union said Northern Health is making things worse not better and that’s creating dangerous and unacceptable working conditions in the emergency department and negatively impacting patient care.

BCNU North East regional council member Danette Thomsen says, “It’s extremely unsettling to hear that the severe lack of nurses has resulted in Northern Health having to pull nurses from other areas of Dawson Creek and District Hospital to the ER to fill empty shifts – even if they haven’t been adequately trained to do so.”

The union said there isn’t enough staff at the Dawson Creek Hospital. When diversions happen in Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge or at the Maternity Ward in Fort St. John, the union says the staff in Dawson Creek, who are already understaffed, are further overwhelmed.

“We can’t keep on ignoring this. Patients are dying and nurses are having to live with the moral distress of choosing which patients are going to survive. This is not okay,” says Thomsen. “Many are young, relatively new nurses and they are being asked to work in the ER despite inadequate specialty training. As conditions continue to deteriorate, we are calling on Northern Health to listen to nurses and address this crisis."

The Union says Northern Health must first address the health-care crisis unfolding in the region and take measures to stop the exodus of nurses who are leaving the system

Thomsen says nurses welcomed the province’s July announcement that the aging Dawson Creek and District Hospital will be replaced with a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 70-bed facility for the community. They also welcomed the province’s recent commitment to implement nurse-patient ratios with hope and optimism.

On Tuesday, CJDC TV News reached out to Northern Health about the hospital diversion in Chetwynd this past weekend. We asked if the staffing issue in Chetwynd was getting better or worse in the last 2 years.

No one from the health authority has reached out, however Thomsen said the staffing crisis in Chetwynd is definitely worse.