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N.S. health-care worker unions optimistic about province’s health plan

Click to play video: 'N.S. ‘Action for Health’ plan appreciated by health-care reps, but devil remains in details' N.S. ‘Action for Health’ plan appreciated by health-care reps, but devil remains in details
The Nova Scotia government's highly anticipated ‘Action for Health’ plan is receiving more reviews from health-care representatives. The province's nurses’ union says it is pleased to see recruitment and retention as the top priority, but that good compensation and improved working conditions are needed to help achieve the target. Callum Smith has more – Apr 24, 2022

The Nova Scotia government’s highly anticipated ‘Action for Health’ plan, designed to address some of the biggest challenges in the health system is being met with hope and optimism by some health worker unions.

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union says it’s pleased to see recruitment and retention as the top priority, but good compensation and improved working conditions are needed to help achieve the target.

Continuing to focus on hiring new grads and increasing the number of university seats are two important pillars, says Janet Hazelton, the union’s president.

Safer working conditions are also needed to help improve the system, she says. But Hazelton is pleased the document is in the spotlight.

“I think it’s a tool that we can all use as Nova Scotians to hold government accountable for promises that they made to Nova Scotians,” she says.

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Read more: COVID-19: N.S. health workers ‘overwhelmed’ as hospitals reach capacity, staff off sick

The NSGEU, meanwhile, represents 18,000 health-care workers including nurses, support services and admin staff.

Its 1st vice-president, Sandra Mullen, says while the plan is focused on care, recruitment efforts require housing.

“There’s no question, you cannot bring folks in from outside this province and this country without having a place for them to reside,” she says.

But the rest of the population needs housing too, she says, to help people in looking after their own health.

Both the nurses union and NSGEU want the province to ensure health care remains publicly funded and delivered.

Read more: Nova Scotia doctor wait list hits new record high with more than 88,300 people

One action item indicates the province will “strengthen local decision making” from leaders in each zone, something that will be a key target, Nova Scotia Health’s interim CEO said Friday.

“Finding the ways to hear those voices, to listen to those voices, and then to engage with communities. It’s critical,” she said. “It will be very important to the future of health care in the province.”

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But while there’s optimism, Hazelton echoes what many critics have been saying: it needs more detail.

“It’s like a report that you did in school. It’s only half done. So, I would send it back, not give it a grade and say ‘give us some timelines, give us more specifics on what it is you put in this plan and then I’ll give you a grade,'” she says.

The government does say some key benchmarks will be available online in early summer.

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