Dozens of nurses protested at the legislature in Fredericton on Friday afternoon to demand the province do more to address shortages and poor working conditions in hospitals.
The rally was organized by the New Brunswick Nurses Union as part of a national day of action that included events across the country. Rallies were also held in Saint John, Moncton and Bathurst, and in other parts of the province.
"Our work situation is in crisis and something needs to be done," said Paula Doucet, the president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.
Last month about 6,000 health-care workers across two bargaining units rejected tentative contract agreements that had been reached between the province and the union.
Nurses and other healthcare workers represented by the union have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2018.
Negotiations between both parties are being mediated by the labour board, and are expected to wrap up next week, Doucet said.
She couldn't speak to terms that were rejected by workers, since both sides have agreed to withhold details pending their ratification, but did say there's a possibility the union could consider striking.
"If [those talks] break down then we'll follow through the process of getting a board report, declaring an impasse, and then moving onto strike votes with our nurses across the province," she said.
At least 854 nursing jobs were vacant in New Brunswick in July, the unions says.
Nurses outside the legislature today said the quality of care that nurses are able to provide is deteriorating quickly.
"It's hard watching even some of the most experienced coworkers of mine struggle everyday with our (nurse to patient) ratios. We feel unsafe," said nurse Kelly Ryer, who graduated during the pandemic last October.
Not being able to provide the type of care patients deserve compounds the stress created by the pandemic, Caitlyn Morgan added.
"We're really missing that human element with our patient care at this point. Everybody is becoming a number. That's very difficult to deal with," said Morgan, who's been a nurse for the past four years.
"We're doing the best we can and trying to provide the best care with very limited resources, and it's very taxing."
Others in the city also joined in on the protest to show their support for healthcare workers.
June Patterson, the candidate for the Communist Party of Canada for the Fredericton riding, said low wages offered by the province are to blame for healthcare workers abandoning the province.
"We have a lot of young people moving away to seek better pay, and that is only compounding the problems that we have here in this province with our medical system," Patterson said.
"They deserve a good dignified wage so they can live in this province and raise families here."