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‘It’s really serious’: Nurses across New Brunswick say they’ve passed the breaking point

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick nurses rally over nursing crisis' New Brunswick nurses rally over nursing crisis
WATCH: Nurses in New Brunswick protested at the legislature demanding their concerns be addressed. As Travis Fortnum reports, it’s part of a national day of action – Sep 17, 2021

As nurses and supporters Canada-wide step out for a national day of action, New Brunswick’s nurses rally in cities across the province.

Workers in two bargaining units within New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) have worked without contract since Dec. 31, 2018.

There’s been a recruitment and retention problem in the province for years but members say the COVID-19 pandemic has made the weight of the profession almost too much to bare.

“A lot of nurses I work with have contemplated suicide because of the shortage and just how we’re treated at work,” says registered nurse Charlotte Cobbett.

“It’s really serious.”

Read more: A look at COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination programs across Canada

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Dressed in her scrubs, Cobbett joined the rally in Saint John, held outside Health Minister Dorothy Shephard’s office.

Shephard didn’t speak to the nurses outside, but in a written statement sent to Global News, says the Department of Health is proud of their hard work.

“They need our support,” she writes.

“Our government is working hard to address recruitment issues to provide support.”

In her statement, Shephard says the department is working with New Brunswick’s Regional Health Authorities to entice new nurses to the province with incentives — things like a previously-announced International Educated Nurses pilot, which she says has so far attracted 70 candidates.

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“We are not standing still,” writes Shephard.

“We hear the concerns of our nurses. And we will continue to support them as we strive to find solutions to these critical issues.”

NBNU president Paula Doucet joined members and supporters on the lawn of the Legislature for the Fredericton branch of the rally, saying one way the province could support them is to meet demands at the bargaining table.

“We need to get these contracts behind us because we know health care in this province is suffering,” she says.

NBNU Presidnet Paula Doucet led one rally in Fredericton. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Demands brought forth by the union before COVID-19 added to the stresses of the profession, putting nurses on New Brunswick’s front lines.

“We’ve held it together throughout this pandemic and we are done,” Doucet says.

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“The stress that registered nurses and front-line workers have faced every day with on-ing and off-ing PPE and wondering are they bringing this virus home to their family has been an emotional turmoil,” she says.

Tentative agreements reached in August were rejected by union members.

 

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