Reliance on Casual Staffing within New Brunswick’s Long-term Care Sector Reaches Dangerous Levels


FREDERICTON – (July 22, 2020) – The New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU), which represents 6900 Registered Nurses (RNs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) across New Brunswick, is sounding the alarm over dangerous levels of reliance on casual staffing within the province’s long-term care sector.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a national spotlight on what happens when nursing homes continuously rely on unsafe levels of casual staffing,” said NBNU President Paula Doucet.  “RNs working within New Brunswick’s long-term care sector have been calling attention to this issue for years, but the problem continues to worsen. Now, in the era of COVID-19, we cannot wait one moment longer. These levels of casual staffing pose enormous risks to the safety of residents, and must be addressed immediately,” added Doucet.

In a pair of 2017 sector reports, the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH) laid out many of the problems associated with heighted levels of casual staff within nursing homes, with nursing home administrators reporting the following:

  • “There must be full time and part time jobs created with scheduled hours. We will not be able to recruit new staff with on-call casual hours.”
  • “27% of New Brunswick’s long-term care RNs left their positions in 2017.”
  • “Casual employment that doesn’t allow for deep engagement of an employee, and employee sharing with other employers, has become the norm for nursing homes.”

Through right-to-information requests, NBNU was able to obtain a 2019 NBANH hiring forecast which shows a disturbing lack of progress on this issue over time. According to the forecast, New Brunswick nursing homes were expecting to fill 170 of their 224 open positions with casual non-guaranteed labor.

Within the 51 RN positions that were expected to become open in 2019, nursing homes anticipated making only 9 permanent offers to applicants – a total of 18% – leaving the other 82% of postings to be filled through casual hours.

“This data constitutes a baffling refusal on the part of nursing home employers to heed the results of their own Association’s reports,” said Doucet. “It is imperative that as a province we understand the enormous risks in maintaining a nursing home workforce that runs almost entirely on casual labour.  Other provinces, like Quebec, have already learned those lessons – to their horror.  Even now, there is time for New Brunswick to mitigate these risks, but only if we act now.”

Others, like Dr. Deborah van den Hoonaard, Professor Emerita of Gerontology at St. Thomas University, have also been critical of these trends and are equally concerned about the dangers they represent to the safety and wellbeing of New Brunswick’s most vulnerable seniors.

“Funding shortfalls in our long-term care system have led to much part-time and casual work,” said Dr. van den Hoonaard. “It is essential that these precarious and underpaid jobs be replaced with full-time, well-paid, secure jobs that allow registered nurses and other healthcare workers to provide real care – including real relationships – with residents and recognize the skill involved in the work.”

Dangerous levels of casual staffing are one of the many issues NBNU will be discussing with the Office of New Brunswick’s Seniors Advocate in the weeks to come. Recently, NBNU called on the Office of the Seniors Advocate to conduct a full investigation of the number of care hours being delivered in New Brunswick’s for-profit nursing homes.

In addition to this new and troubling data on casual staffing, NBNU has been conducting its own intensive two-year investigation of New Brunswick nursing homes. That report, entitled The Forgotten Generation, will be released in September, and contains 39 recommendations to address the dangerous conditions in our province’s long-term care sector.

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For more information, contact:

Jeff Hull
Research Officer
Cell: 506-461-9022