With only one full-time nurse currently working, Northern Health says it’s addressing a nursing shortage in Tumbler Ridge.

A call has been put out by the health authority and the District of Tumbler Ridge to attract qualified candidates to work in the small community, which often use fly in nurses from elsewhere.

Angela De Smit, Chief Operating Officer for Northern Health, says Tumbler Ridge tends to recruit in waves.

“When they recruit nurses, they tend to stay for four or five years, but then at the same time we tend to see them leaving the community at the same time as well,” De Smit said. “They had a really stable nursing force up until a couple years ago.”

Two full-time positions are open, with one part-time position. The centre is staffed with only one full-time nurse at present.

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand and council met with Northern Health on May 31, noting the municipality diverted emergencies from June 2 to June 7 as no agency nurses were available.

“Tumbler Ridge needs a reliable health care system and Northern Health and the province of British Columbia need to take action now for the safety of our residents,” said Bertrand in a June 4 media release.

De Smit says an agency nurse has been hired on since then, and will cover up to June 12.

“We do heavily rely on agency nurses.”

She added the COVID-19 pandemic has been a strain on the healthcare system in northern B.C.

“Most of them have jobs elsewhere, they may work in Ontario and get a leave of absence where they get to travel and come out, so they do that. But their employers are not providing them with that leave of absence.”