Halifax nurses ordered back to work after dozens of surgeries cancelled

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
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HALIFAX - A full slate of Halifax nurses with the Nova Scotia General Employees Union are expected back at work Wednesday after nearly 90 surgeries were cancelled Tuesday when many nurses didn’t show up to work.

Protesters from the NSGEU standing in front of Province House on Tuesday.

About 30 per cent of nurses in the Local 97 working for the Capital Health District Authority skipped their shifts to protest essential services legislation tabled by the Liberal government late Monday night.

Union president Joan Jessome told the law amendments committee Tuesday the bill takes away their right to strike.

“You have taken away the right for workers to advocate on behalf of what they believe in,” Jessome said.

“Without our right to strike we have no way to raise an issue of public safety in those hospitals.”

The legislation would require nurses, paramedics, and other health care workers to have essential service agreements in place before a strike begins.

The 2,400 NSGEU nurses can legally go on strike Thursday but Chris Power, president and CEO of Capital Health, said 30 per cent had not come to work Tuesday which led to many patients not getting the proper care.

Power said 70 surgeries were cancelled on top of the 19 already postponed in light of a possible strike Thursday.

“This strike … undermines the shared responsibility of our care providers and Capital Health to offer safe and high-quality services to Nova Scotians,” she said.

Capital Health confirmed 140 nurses from Local 97 working at sites including the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Nova Scotia Hospital and East Coast Forensic Hospital did not show up to work Tuesday.

Power said Capital Health will consult their human resources department to determine what, if any, consequences should be handed out to the nurses who did not attend work.

Emergency rooms functioned normally, according to Capital Health, but the inpatient addictions unit was closed and some patients were transferred to other health districts.

Around 3:30 p.m. the province’s Labour Board issued a cease and desist notice against the Local 97 nurses ordering them back to work, and the NSGEU asked their members to show up for their next shift.

The union said off-duty nurses will continue picketing the legislature to protest the bill, and a legal strike is planned for Thursday.

Capital Health and the union have been unable to reach an agreement despite mediated talks. Nurse-to-patient ratios have remained a sticking point in negotiations.

Organizations: Capital Health District Authority, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Nova Scotia Hospital East Coast Forensic Hospital Labour Board

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