HALIFAX - Nova Scotia’s premier says there is no back to work legislation on the table for Halifax area nurses just yet, but the province will use “whatever means necessary” to ensure patient safety.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Premier Stephen McNeil answers questions at One Government Place.
Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters Tuesday he was disappointed mediated negotiations between the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) and the Capital District Health Authority broke down Sunday after three days of talks.
“We’re looking for any sign from the two sides that they’re going to continue to find a resolution to this problem,” McNeil said.
Union leader Joan Jessome said Monday her 2,500 nursing members are ready to walk off the job illegally if the province tables essential-services legislation.
McNeil said he is disappointed with the “amount of rhetoric” that has been going on in the public and media because he would like to see both sides at the table working on a settlement.
Although Jessome has said there has been no movement from Capital Health on the key point of mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, McNeil said Nova Scotia already has a ratio above the national average.
The province has 980 registered nurses per 100,000 people while the national average is 780 nurses, McNeil said.
“The question becomes ‘What more is going to make a difference? What more do you want?’” McNeil said.
Both sides were discussing emergency service staffing on Tuesday, and McNeil said he hoped “cooler heads will prevail” during that discussion and negotiations will start again.
“They need to show us something today that not only are they looking at emergency services, but that they are continuing to talk about how they find a permanent resolution.”
The government will let the bargaining process continue as long as both sides communicate, McNeil said, but will use “whatever means necessary to ensure that patient safety is being protected in this province.”
The union will be in a legal strike position April 3.
Premier needs to ‘step away from negotiating table:’ nurse
A Halifax nurse and member of their union bargaining committee said Tuesday that Premier Stephen McNeil needs to “step away” from their talks with the Capital District Health Authority (CDHA).
On Tuesday, Robert Chisholm responded to the premier’s comment that Nova Scotia already has high nurse-to-patient ratios by saying the province has a much older population than the rest of the country with more chronic illness and cancer rates.
“I think it’s worthy of mentioning,” Chisholm said. “That is why we do have the current nurse ratios that we do in this province.”
Chisholm said the Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) was told by CDHA they didn’t have the authority to approve higher mandated nurse ratios.
“Obviously that might be a government-driven mandate,” he said. “I would ask the premier to actually step away from the negotiating table.”
Chisholm said he understands that patients are anxious about what would happen in the event of a strike, but added this is the “one and only” opportunity the union will have to get mandated nurse ratios in the province “and the nurses truly believe in it.”
He said it’s “highly unlikely” the union would take a deal that includes higher salaries or other demands but leaves out the nursing ratios.