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93 per cent of N.S. nurses feel patients are at risk due to staff shortages: NSGEU survey

A recent survey of over 1,000 Nova Scotia nurses has found that over 90 per cent feel patients are being put at risk due to staff shortages, according to their union.
A recent survey of over 1,000 Nova Scotia nurses has found that over 90 per cent feel patients are being put at risk due to staff shortages, according to their union. File/ Global News

A survey of over 1,000 Nova Scotia nurses has found that over 90 per cent feel patients are being put at risk due to staff shortages, according to their union.

The Nova Scotia General Employees Union (NSGEU) says the survey was sent to all 3,147 members and was completed by 1,009 of them.

Members were given more than 10 days to complete the survey, according to the NSGEU, who says the results were “extremely alarming.”

According to the survey, 93 per cent of nurses surveyed say they believe patients are being put at risk due to working short, and in the past six months, and 92 per cent said their workload has increased over the past five years.

The survey also indicated that 85 per cent of respondents say their unit works short at least once per week, and only 12 per cent feel safe at work.

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To NSGEU President Jason MacLean, the results didn’t come as a surprise.

“We’ve been saying this for well over four years now and it has not been addressed in any of the years that McNeil has been premier of this province,” MacLean said.

“People are flooding into the hospitals and people can’t get out of the hospitals or be moved around.

MacLean says that’s the result of a lack of new long-term care beds or new reform in home care.

“All these things are happening, all the while we have the leaders in government sticking their heads in the sand and saying, ‘There’s no issue here,’” MacLean added.

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According to the NSGEU, they released the survey in the days that followed the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) issuing a survey of their own, only to pull it offline.

The survey indicated that 84 per cent of respondents say they have experienced physical or verbal threats or acts of abuse/violence by patients/residents/family members over the past five years while at work.

Lauren Croft says she’s one of the many registered nurses who completed the survey that feel unsafe while at work.

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“We’re working so short-staffed right now … it’s making a really unsafe work environment,” Croft said.

“From the get-go I’m already starting to worry when I come into my shift, how am I going to accomplish everything that I need to take care of in this next 12 hours?”

WATCH: Protesters brave wet weather to raise concerns about Nova Scotia health care

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Protesters brave wet weather to raise concerns about Nova Scotia health care

The results of the survey were brought forward during question period at the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday by NDP Leader Gary Burrill, who pressed McNeil on whether more nurses will be hired to meet the demand.

“When can nurses expect to see an adequate complement of their colleagues at their work?” Burrill asked.

“We’re continuing to invest in our health-care infrastructure to improve the environment where our nurses and health-care teams are working,” McNeil replied.

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“We’re going to continue to do that as we continue to make sure we have the appropriate number of health-care providers in those facilities.”

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But MacLean is calling on the province’s health minister to establish a working group that includes all union stakeholders, government officials and NSHA management to identify immediate solutions.

“We’re asking Nova Scotians to please, call their MLA, to please sound off to Stephen McNeil that there is an issue here and it needs to be addressed today, not tomorrow,” MacLean said.

The union is also continuing to invite the premier and Health Minister Randy Delorey to shadow their nurses to “see what it is really like working on the front lines of the health-care system today.”