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'We need to act now': N.S. Nurses' Union president stresses importance of time with health-care funding deal


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that federal health-care funding will be increased by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years during a meeting Tuesday with Canada’s premiers.

Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union president Janet Hazelton was also in Ottawa for meetings with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

She thinks the health-care offer presented to the premiers is “great.”

“It’s something that we’ve been asking for, for a long time,” she told CTV Atlantic’s Todd Battis during an interview.

She says it’s also important that all Canadians see accountability for the funds being sent to the provinces.

“It is earmarked for health care. We got to make sure that that’s where it’s spent and it’s not put in general revenue, it’s spent on specific initiatives to improve the health-care system in our province and in the other provinces across the county,” said Hazelton.

“It needs to do whatever it takes to make sure our public system, our public health-care system, which we all cherish, is maintained,” she added. “And it’s maintained in such a way that people, nurses and others, are compensated fairly, they’re able to have a work-life balance, there’s enough of them so that there’s time off, they’re not working tons of overtime. So, there’s lots of issues. Health-human resource is the most important issue.”

How to best support the recruitment and retention of health-care workers was also mentioned during the meeting.

While Hazelton says she’s hopeful about that, time is of the essence.

“What we can’t have is provincial governments going away and taking forever to decide how to use this. They need to act quickly; they need to make decisions quickly. And one of the biggest decisions they have to make is how are we going to retain the sort of mid-career health-care worker,” she says. “We have lots of recruitment monies available, but we’re not doing anything.”

She says nurses, especially those who worked through the pandemic, need to be given a reason to stay in Nova Scotia.

“Money’s part of it, but work-life and balance and the amount of overtime and time off – it’s a big, big issue and money’s going to help,” she says. “We need to make sure that nurses want to stay and work in this province.”

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston spoke after the meeting and said the province will “certainly spend” the money it’s given, citing significant needs in the health-care system.

“Would we of wanted more? Of course we want more. I’ll always push for more for Nova Scotians as my colleagues will for their constituents,” he said. “We recognize the new funding, we recognize the confirmation that existing funding would continue, but we’ll continue to push for more as well. But the needs are significant.”

Hazelton agrees increases in funding is good, but stresses the importance of acting soon.

“I think that to have the federal government move to increase our transfers, funds, for health care is a good thing and we can’t wait,” she says. “The issue is we don’t have time to wait. Like every single day that we wait, a nurse or a health-care worker is leaving. They’re leaving out of province or they’re quitting the profession all together. We don’t have time to wait. We need to act now.”

Regardless of the increase in funds, there often isn’t enough health-care workers for the provinces to hire.

Hazelton points to the latest trend of nurses choosing travel nursing over staying in their own province to work.

“Why is that? We’ve got to figure it out what the reason is and fix it. And if it’s about time off then let’s talk about that. If it’s about compensation, let's talk about that. But the fact that a nurse is choosing to go to work in Alberta and leave her family, that’s a problem. And the only way to ever fix a problem is to understand why it’s happening in the first place.”

But are she and Houston on the same page on these issues?

“I think we are all on the same page in Nova Scotia,” says Hazelton. “I think that every Nova Scotian believes that health care is important, health care needs to be sustained. Public health-care is very important to Canadians and Nova Scotians and I believe every Nova Scotian – it’s not an 'us' and a 'they,' it’s a 'we' – it’s our problem and I think everyone has to be on-board to fix it.” Top Stories

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