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Capital Health brings in temp nurses from other provinces

Four ICU beds closed because of lack of qualified nurses

by Robert Devet

Capital health is bringing in so-called travel nurses from other provinces to deal with staffing shortages.  Last years brief nurses strike for mandated nurse-to-patients ratios was quickly legislated back to work. Photo Robert Devet
Capital health is bringing in so-called travel nurses from other provinces to deal with staffing shortages. Last years brief nurses strike for mandated nurse-to-patients ratios was quickly legislated back to work. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Capital Health is bringing in critical care nurses from other provinces to deal with staffing shortages in Intensive Care Units in metro.

“We have contracts set up with two agencies for what is called travel nurses,” Bruce English, Director of People Services at Capital Health, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

English says that at this time four beds are closed at various ICUs because there are no qualified nurses.

It takes three critical care nurses to open a bed, he says.

“In the ICUs a lot of people will show up with for example trauma, and we basically deal with these, but other people with planned surgeries, cardiovascular and so on, basically we have had to delay those folks because of basically not having a full complement of beds,” says English.

English expects the ICU pressures to be temporary. The nurses in question require a level of training that is not provided in university, but 30 nurses are in training through the Registered Nurses Professional Training Centre , he says. These nurses are expected to graduate in May, and to be on the floor in June.

English believes that hiring out-of-province nurses does not contravene the collective agreement, since the employer can demonstrate that the specialized nursing skills simply aren't there in the short term.

Hiring travel nurses is more expensive though. The province is on the hook for travel costs, accommodation, and the nursing license that allows the travel nurse to work here. And companies such as Solutions Staffing Inc. charge substantial fees.

Last year nurses in metro represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) demanded that mandatory nurse-to-patients ratios be instituted and that additional staff be hired. They argued that working with staff shortages was putting patients' safety at risk.

Management and the government countered that increasing nurse-to-patients rations was not necessary and too expensive.

After a brief strike in the spring of 2014 nurses were forced back to work when Bill 37 was proclaimed by the liberal government. That same bill also effectively took away the right to strike from another 40,000 unionized health care workers province-wide.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert


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