Two unions representing nurses in Nova Scotia have raised concerns over a plan that aims to reduce surgery wait times by shifting some procedures from IWK Health Centre to a private clinic.
The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union issued a joint release pointing out their concerns with a plan to move some procedures that would have been done at IWK to Scotia Surgery, a clinic in Dartmouth.
“If you’re going to ramp up surgeries, you’re going to need more staff, and there are no nurses to be had in this province, so that is a concern,” said NSNU president Janet Hazelton.
Starting in February, surgeons and anesthesiologists from the IWK will be able to perform some procedures at Scotia Surgery in Dartmouth.
The clinic’s operating rooms will be used for pediatric non-complex, elective, outpatient surgeries including orthopedic, urology, plastic and dental procedures.
“There is a significant backlog of surgeries so over the next 13 months as we go through this partnership it is anticipated we will be able to take 500 children off the list who are waiting for elective procedures,” said Nova Scotia’s Health Minister Michelle Thompson.
Yet Hazelton said that while any effort to reduce wait times is a good thing, the unions are concerned about the impact the initiative might have on staffing.
While the surgeons and anesthesiologists will be from the IWK, the nurses taking part will be staff from Scotia Surgery.
“It concerns me that people are going to leave the public sector, our hospitals, and the long-term care sector to go work there because the hours would be better,” Hazelton said.
Already, there are 1,100 vacancies for registered nurses in Nova Scotia and 250 vacancies for licensed practical nurses. Hazelton said staff are burnt out and the system can’t afford to lose more nursing staff.
The other concern being raised is that partnering with a private clinic could be a slippery slope to a two-tiered system in our province.
“In some provinces private surgeries are being done and people are actually paying for them and those that have money can jump the queue,” Hazelton said. “We don’t want that in this province, that’s not the way health care should be given. Health care should be given to those most in need.”
The unions raised both these concerns with the Health Minister during a meeting last week.
Hazelton said the minister was receptive to listening to what they had to say, and reiterated this was a temporary initiative to reduce wait times.
“And there’s no intent to privatize health care in the province, so she’s made that commitment to me,” Hazelton said.