Nova Scotia nurses go on strike for patient health

Nearly 2400 Capital Health Halifax nurses walked off the job Apr.3.

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government intends to push an essential services law through the legislature Apr.3.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, expects the strike to end when the legislation is passed.

Picket lines are set up outside the Victoria General and Halifax Infirmary, and strikers are receiving support from passing cars and pedestrians.

Nurses protest against the introduction of the Essential Health and Community Services Act outside the legislature in Halifax on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nurses protest against the introduction of the Essential Health and Community Services Act outside the legislature in Halifax on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Negotiations for a new collective agreement with the Capital District Health Authority have reached an impasse, and nurses are demanding higher staffing levels to ensure patient safety. The union is trying to seal a deal that includes mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.

Heather Phillips, a cardiac surgery nurse at the Halifax Infirmary, told the CBC that there are not enough nurses to effectively take care of the patients.

The strike is expected to last about 30 hours. Nurses will continue to staff certain units, including emergency and intensive care.

About 60 per cent of nurses scheduled to work remain on the job, the union reports.

Capital District Health Authority is warning patients that the strike will significantly impact most of the services provided at hospitals.

The Nova Scotia Labour Board issued a cease and desist order on Apr.1 after dozens of nurses failed to report for their shifts. Their absence forced the cancellation of dozens of surgeries.


A Halifax Nurse Speaks Up

Dearest friends,

I ask that you take a minute or two and hear me out tonight. It’s a sad day for healthcare in Nova Scotia.

Do me a favor and support your nurses?

Some of you have seen the circumstances we work under. Perhaps some of you haven’t seen these circumstances because we, as nurses, try not to advertise how exhausted we are while caring for you. We try to provide compassionate care without seeming burnt out from working short staffed every. single. shift.

Complacency is a destructive mindset and keeping ourselves informed is key. At the end of the day, taking a stance against what’s happening is a matter of principle.

In my few (four) years of being a RN, I’ve had moments I can say I have loved my job. I’ve had days where I have left work satisfied, feeling as though I was confidant in the care I provided. I have left work, somedays, thankful to be a nurse.

Unfortunately, lately, I can say I’ve had more days where I’ve left frustrated/flustered. These work conditions are not okay and we shouldn’t be made to feel as though being overworked and understaffed is NORMAL. I often find myself calling work at 2/3/4am after a days work wondering about patients. Worried that I could have missed something because we are constantly being overworked. This is unsettling. I literally lose sleep over this every time I work.

I have seen coworkers of mine who have come to work instead of grieving the death of their own family members because they did not want to have their coworkers working short-staffed. They literally went to work, helping patients and their families grieve while grieving themselves. Talk about a “wounded healer”.

There is plenty of literature supporting the fact that safe nurse-patient ratios 1) improve patient safety immensely and 2) SAVE healthcare dollars.

What I am asking is that you, as citizens who recognize that healthcare providers must be taken care of in order to care for you effectively, support us in the events of impending strike. It is so interesting to me how nurses have been portrayed by the media and by our politicians. I’m asking you to be mindful of what you read and hear, question motives and intents. Please do not let those with motives of money convince you that this is about money. It is about patient safety.

Please support us as we have supported and cared for you and your family members. Almost everyone has had experiences with loved ones in hospital, and I know you would want the best care for yourself and/or your family members. Please help support us while we advocate for you.

Your NSGEU nurses are literally going on strike to take a stance against unsafe patient care. This is no longer okay and we are putting our jobs on the line in order to advocate for what we know to be right.


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