Wednesday, December 19, 2007

With Barrels of Extra Oil Revenues We Should be Pumping More Into Nurses

It's Christmas, and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will pump $100's of millions into the economy to keep the business community afloat. We don't have enough nurses, but there's lots of money floating around everywhere. This year, Newfoundland & Labrador hit the jackpot with crude revenues helping to more than triple the projected provincial surplus of $261 million. On Dec. 10, Finance Minister Tom Marshall announced that the projected surplus was $881 million. Yet, our health system, and people are suffering because of a continued shortage of nurses.

The latest nurse news is from St. Lawrence. There is a nursing shortage there. In fact on the Burin Peninsula, there are actually 95 nursing positions "to boot", and 20 are still unfilled. The problems are workload, money and job security.

Nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador currently earn between $45,000 and $82,000 a year.

The nurses union says those are the lowest wages in the country, $8 an hour less than nurses in Ontario. - Debbie Forward, President, nurses union

Though measures have been taken by government to encourage new graduates to stay in NL, it does not seem to be enough. Forward also wants the government to commit to jobs for new graduates and to step up recruitment efforts.

This is not a new problem. Here's a similar problem in 1999 when there was a nurses strike:

They want more full time positions created to deal with what most everyone agrees are overworked conditions for nurses. And finally they want more money. Nurses in Newfoundland are the lowest paid in the country. (CBC NL)

There is reason for optimism though. Last month the NL government announced that they will begin negotiations on a new nursing contract months earlier than was originally scheduled.

Earlier this fall an emergency room crisis at the St. John's Health Sciences Centre caused a commotion, which led to more nursing staff hired on there. We could use more nurses, and more incentives to keep them here. With $100's of millions from oil being pumped into the economy, there are barrels of opportunities to pump more into nurses, getting hired and staying here.

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