STATEMENT: NBNU calls for a public inquiry into private agency contracts

The New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) is calling for a public inquiry into the contracts struck between New Brunswick’s regional health authorities (RHAs) and private-for-profit health staffing agencies in 2022.

“We have been sounding the alarm about the province’s use of private-for-profit nursing agencies for a long time,” said Paula Doucet, NBNU President. “We now know more about the outrageous exploitation New Brunswick taxpayers are currently experiencing at the hands of these nursing agencies – but we deserve more answers.”

New Brunswick has spent upward of $174 million on nurse staffing contracts. The final figure will be much higher.

The report of the NB Auditor General Paul Martin and the testimony of RHA leaders at the meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts revealed many troubling details on the contracts and the circumstances in which they were signed. Among them is the fact that both RHAs recommended 8 measures to retain New Brunswick nurses, which would have helped stabilize NB’s health care system in crisis for the longer term. Government rejected all 8 measures in favour of contracting private agencies.

“Our nurses are fed up with the lack of respect this government has shown us,” said Doucet. “While they sat on record budget surpluses and watched other provinces solidify their nurse staffing through return-to-service agreements, they refused to speak with us about any kind of incentive to stay and work in New Brunswick, but they didn’t hesitate to approve the use of agency nurses at three times the cost of publicly salaried nurses.”

Particularly in the case of the contracts between Vitalité Health Network and Canadian Health Labs, both Vitalité and the government have pointed the finger at each other to avoid taking responsibility. NBNU believes both parties need to acknowledge their roles in the situation.

A public inquiry would empower an independent, impartial commission to call witnesses who would testify under oath. It is a powerful tool that ensures transparency and accountability, and it can begin the journey towards reform.

“A public inquiry would reveal the facts and provide a clearer picture of what went wrong and why,” said Doucet. “This is not about assigning blame: it is about learning from our mistakes and committing to fixing the problem. It is time for the government to step up and acknowledge its role and commit to the kind of meaningful reform that would protect New Brunswickers from being exploited again.”


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