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Nova Scotia looks to limit travel nurses in the province

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Travel nurses in Nova Scotia will now only work for a maximum of 180 days at provincially-funded hospitals or long-term care facilities.

According to Premier Tim Houston, many Nova Scotia nurses currently work alongside travel nurses who make more money and have better schedule flexibility.

“It is a move that is out of respect for those nurses who are dedicated to our system who are permanent employees in our system,” said Houston, when reached in Toronto.

The change will go into effect Dec. 15.

“I think it’s a great step,” said Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton.

There are currently more than 350 travel nurses working in Nova Scotia at any given time.

“We are spending way too much money, millions on travel nurses,” said Hazelton. “That’s not good for the health-care system. That’s money coming out of health care.”

Going forward, nursing graduates in Nova Scotia will not be able to work in the province as a travel nurse during their first year of post-graduation employment.

“If there is nowhere for our nurses to go, other than go permanently, then they will likely not go to travel nursing," said Hazelton.

Premier Houston said restrictions on the use of travel nurses should be a regional strategy.

“We are hopeful, the other provinces will follow suit,” said Houston.

In a recent eight-month period, New Brunswick spent almost $56 million on travel nurses.

“I have asked for the government to put an end date to the use of travel agency nurses as well,” said New Brunswick Nurses Union president Paula Doucet. “I hope they hear my request and I hope they pay attention to what our neighbouring province and Nova Scotia is doing as well.”

Doucet also said the use of travel nurses in the Maritimes was originally supposed to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

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