OP-ED: You asked, Mr. Premier…

April 20, 2023

OP-ED: You asked, Mr. Premier…

Now that the Department of Health has outlined is 2023-24 budget amounts and plans, we can point out again that the $29.7 million earmarked to help “address recruitment and retention challenges” is simply for recruitment and includes nothing for nurses who were holding out hope for a retention incentive of some type – an incentive that would provide some level of parity with other Atlantic provinces and signal this government’s focus on respecting nurses who played such a vital role in holding together an over-stressed system during Covid waves.

Newfoundland and Labrador led the way with announcing incentives in 2022, followed quickly by P.E.I. Premier Blaine Higgs missed an opportunity here.

Nova Scotia’s focus on fixing health care and demonstrating appreciation for their nurses with retention incentives just recently, will help sure up their existing human resources, while at the same time helping to make it a highly attractive province for new nurses. Then New Brunswick’s budget followed. Another missed opportunity there.

Recruitment missions to other countries and subsequent hiring of internationally educated nurses isn’t the answer. Even in the wake of recent recruitment missions to the Philippines, that country’s government responded that they need their own nurses, and they begged other countries to stop focused recruitment there.

Recruitment isn’t the magic bullet the premier seems to think it is. The largest percentage of nurses employed in the province are in the 30-40 age bracket. Those are the nurses who have experience and, if retained, can help mentor incoming, new graduates. We need them – but many are mobile and won’t remain without respect and a clear message that they are valued.

At the State of the Province address in February the premier asked a question of the audience – should I stay, or should I go? I think the answer is clear.

However, we want our nurses to stay.

Mr. Higgs has been showing us that he is out of touch with the needs and wants of New Brunswickers. The continued singular focus on deficit shrinking without regard for fixing important issues that matter to New Brunswickers, is disadvantaging our province; we need investment in health care, and nurses are foundational to health care success.

Paula Doucet is the President of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

The New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) is a labour organization of approximately 8900 nurses who are employed in various healthcare facilities throughout the province of New Brunswick.