Nurses pepper health minister with questions; pressure him on overtime answer
Published Monday, April 15, 2019 10:42PM ADT
Nova Scotia's health minister met face-to-face with some Nova Scotia’s nurses at their annual general meeting in Truro on Monday and they had questions.
Question such as why they're working so much and why so many shifts are short staffed?
“Will you instruct them to the previous long-standing interpretation of the language in order for us to deal with this immense workload issue pending the results of our grievance?” Nova Scotia Nurses Union president Janet Hazelton said to loud applause.
That is the big question for the nurses in the province.
Will the Nova Scotia Health Authority go back to the way they used to dole out overtime payments?
Hazelton says the change is affecting staffing, which is already low.
“Small little hospitals that may only have 10 nurses, and if those nurses are not willing to pick up extra shifts because of this change, then we won’t be able to staff,” she said. “It's that simple, we can barely staff now.”
In February, the NSHA changed the way they pay out overtime.
Historically, if a nurse got called to pick up an extra shift, they would be paid overtime for that
That means not as many nurses are picking up shifts, and the nurses that are already working often have to stay on for up to 24 hours.
“Anybody working 24 hours, that's not ideal,” Hazelton said. “Pilots aren't allowed to, bus drivers aren't allowed to, truck drivers aren't allowed to, but nurses can.”
So these nurses want to know - will Health Minister Randy Delorey tell the NSHA to revert back to the old rules?
He says he can't make the change, but he will advise the health authority that patient care is the most important thing to consider.
“My expectations have been clear all along with the employer that with care and filling the shifts to ensure we get the appropriate care for Nova Scotia patients is a top priority from our perspective as a government,” Delorey said.
The 300 nurses at the meeting also answered poll questions via an app.
Ninety-eight percent say their hours have increased over the last five years, while half say their unit is short-staffed every day.
And two-thirds of the nurses say they now feel unsafe at work.
The NSNU has filed grievances with the health authority over the change to the overtime payments.
They want Delorey to advise the health authority to revert back to the old payment structure while they wait for the grievances to be worked out.
They pushed for an answer by Thursday, and Delorey said he would get them that answer.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.