Workplace violence, staff shortage talks dominate N.S. Nurses Union AGM

President Janet Hazelton speaking at 2018 NSNU AGM. Jeremy Keefe / Global News

Nurses have been physically attacked and overworked – that’s the message the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union (NSNU) wants the provincial and federal governments to hear loud and clear.

The NSNU’s Annual General Meeting is happening this week in Truro, where Health Minister Randy Delorey heard such concerns firsthand and took questions from health-care workers.

WATCH: Violence against nurses addressed in new workplace strategy

Union President Janet Hazelton began Tuesday’s proceedings speaking to the over 250-person crowd about the difficulties associated with nursing. Hazelton indicated in decades past, nurses were struck on a regular basis without thought of reporting such instances.

Although the violence remains an all-too-common aspect of the job, health officials are urging their governments to put the proper support systems in place to decrease it from happening.

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“In Canada there’s a federal law, aggravated criminal assault, so it’s not just assault. It’s aggravated assault, and it pertains to transit workers and police officers,” Hazelton explained. “So if you strike a transit worker or a police officer, it’s a different criminal charge.”

“We need to consider it for health-care workers.”

Over the weekend, the NSNU president had a quick encounter with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and addressed the issue. She said after mentioning the addition of transit drivers to the law, Trudeau said it was an amendment they were proud to introduce.

Hazelton believes similar success could be seen in the sector she represents, as well.

“It has decreased the incidences with transit drivers and police officers, so one would think it would work just as effectively when you strike a nurse or another health-care worker.”

“There needs to be a more serious charge than just assault,” Hazelton said.

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey took questions from those in attendance, discussing issues such as paid plasma clinics and the need for more nurses and health professionals working in the province.

READ MORE: Advocacy group presses N.S. government to ban private plasma companies

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Delorey said engaging with those in the field is vital to success and something he will be taking a hands-on approach with.

“President Janet Hazelton has offered to ensure that I do get some face time with front line nurses and I look forward to that. To hear from them, to help have that balance making decisions going forward,” he explained. “We bring all of the information together to say, ‘O.K., how can we ensure that we’ve got the right mix of professionals performing the right tasks in the right locations at the right time to ensure we get the best health-care system we can for Nova Scotians?'”

Making changes to the system is a necessary piece of tackling the health-care puzzle properly. It’s a challenge that’s only getting worse as time goes on.

“We really haven’t seen any significant changes in the staffing levels of long-term care, but we have seen significant difference in our residents,” Hazelton explained. “Our residents are older and sicker and require more nursing care, and we haven’t addressed that as a province.”

The NSNU AGM continues throughout the week.

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