Premier, health minister call meeting with Nova Scotia's nurses this weekend

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks to a group of nursing students at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., during a recent funding announcement. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks to a group of nursing students at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., during a recent funding announcement. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Premier Tim Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson have called a weekend meeting with nurses across Nova Scotia.

A message went out to nurses through their respective unions on Friday advising them of an online conversation the premier and minister will host on Sunday to "hear their ideas and feedback on health care in Nova Scotia."

The meeting comes as the government is engaged in contract negotiations with nurses' unions. The heads of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and Nova Scotia Government and General Employees' Union have repeatedly said the government needs to do more to attract and retain nurses in the province.

Staff vacancy rates at hospitals are growing and the government is increasingly relying on expensive travel nurse services to fill the gaps.

Houston's press secretary, Catherine Klimek, said Sunday's meeting "has nothing to do with contract negotiations."

"It should come as no surprise that the premier wants to directly hear from nurses," Klimek said in an email.

"He regularly speaks to Nova Scotians to hear their ideas and feedback. When we first came into office, we did a "Speak up for Health Care Tour." Premier and Minister Thompson heard from thousands of health care workers."

In 2021, Houston promised that for five years the government would hire every nursing school graduate in Nova Scotia who wants to work in the province. Even with that pledge, Thompson said earlier this year that the health authority could hire 1,500 nurses immediately if they were available.

Union officials have said the government needs to do more to improve working conditions and increase pay if there is any hope of making a dent in the recruitment and retention problems that Nova Scotia, like the rest of the country, is facing.

The notice that went out to nurses says that the first 1,000 people to register for the meeting will be able to ask questions. Anyone who joins after that point will only be able to watch the meeting, due to the system's capacity.

MORE TOP STORIES