N.B. needs to hire 1,600 nurses in 5 years to keep up with demand

New Brunswick’s nursing shortage was a hot button issue in the capital following the release of a video featuring the head of New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network John McGarry and his calls for wide-ranging improvements to the province’s health-care system. 

“If we’re unable to fill our nursing vacancies we won’t be able to maintain our current services and will be forced to close certain units and reduce service,” says McGarry in the 2.5-minute video, where he claims the province needs to hire 320 nurses every year for five years to keep up with demand.

MLAs are now speaking up about what they’ve seen in the corridors of hospitals in the province.

People’s Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy used to work as a clerk in an emergency room.

“I’ve seen (nurses) go with no meals, no lunches, no breaks, no time to go to the washroom,” explained Conroy.

The province’s health minister spoke to reporters following the daily sitting. Ted Flemming says McGarry’s concerns, including the decrease in the number of nursing seats and the ability to move from an LPN to RN in a timely manner, aren’t necessarily new ones.

“We have a serious HR problem here. It’s a storm and it’s looming, and it’s coming upon us,” adds Flemming.

Current and past governments have had to grapple with two main issues: recruitment and staff retention.

The Liberals say a recent $8.7-million cut to the provincial nurse training budget doesn’t help matters.

“It’s really a bad thing. It’s a bad policy decision. When you look at it, we’re in a nurse shortage and we need to find solutions,” says health critic JC D’Amours.

The province says it was a struggle to get nurses in those funded seats.

“We’ve got to get into the high schools and we’ve got to encourage people that this is a profession where there will be employment,” adds Flemming.

In the meantime, the obstetrics unit is set to close at the Campbellton Regional Hospital until at least June 12 due to a staffing shortage.

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