New Brunswick hospitals hiring travel nurses from private temp agencies

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick health authorities using temp agencies to find nurses'
New Brunswick health authorities using temp agencies to find nurses
WATCH: Both of New Brunswick’s health authorities have resorted to hiring travelling nurses from temp agencies to staff their hospitals over the summer. These nurses are sometimes paid double what nurses typically make. Suzanne Lapointe reports – Oct 24, 2022

Both Vitalité and Horizon Health Networks have been hiring travel nurses from private temp agencies in order to fill gaps in nursing staff.

At a press conference on Monday, Horizon interim CEO and president Margaret Melanson said the network has hired “less than 10” travel nurses since the summer.

“We were in a situation that we did reach out to some travel nurses as well. Particularly requesting if any travel nurse would be available to assist us in our emergency department or in our critical care areas,” she said.

In a statement sent to Global News, Brenda Kinney, VP Chief Nursing Officer for Horizon Health, said, “At present, travel nurses are providing temporary relief at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital and the Moncton Hospital.”

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Vitalité senior vice-president of Clinical Programs and Nursing, Sharon Smyth-Okana, did not specify how many travel nurses the network has hired, but told Global News in a statement: “It is important to say that hiring travel nurses is not a practice advocated by the Network. However, our priority is quality of care.

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“We do it only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time possible.”

The New Brunswick Nurses Union opposes the practice of hiring nurses through private agencies.

Hiring travel nurses through agencies is significantly more expensive than hiring through traditional means.

Nurses hired through agencies can be paid one and a half to two times the salary of a regular employee, according to the union.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this in our province that we need to rely on the private sector agency nurses,” NB Nurses Union president Paula Doucet said in an interview on Monday.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm bell for a number of years that we would be in the staffing shortage that we’re in currently,” she said.

Health Minister Bruce Fitch said he believes this is a necessary stop-gap measure.

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“It does cost more, without a doubt. But it’ll also (be) a cost if we have to close an emergency room, or close a wing, or not be able to provide the services to the people that show up. So it’s an investment in the health care system in the province of New Brunswick,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

Doucet believes a key factor in avoiding the need for travel nurses is retention in addition to the province’s recruitment efforts.

“We need to start retaining the experience and the knowledge that we have in our system now, so that when we do recruit those new nurses in they have a great mentor and orientation, support system in place, and it makes all of our lives easier with a lighter workload,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Union urges province to act quickly, as long-term care staff shortages continue'
Union urges province to act quickly, as long-term care staff shortages continue

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