Lorraine Michael Question Period (11.14.2013)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

In Happy Valley-Goose Bay and in Bonavista overworked registered nurses are forced to shoulder the burden of extra work due to permanent and temporary vacancies. Nurses are even working twenty-four hour shifts because of this situation.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will this government act now to support initiatives that address fatigue, heavy workload, and the increasing complexity of care to ease the burden on nurses and keep them working?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we now have more nurses working than ever before in our history. In fact, 40 per cent of the health professional workforce in Newfoundland and Labrador is comprised of nurses.

We have 6,400 RNs working in our Province and we have 2,500 LPNs working in our Province. We have 53 per cent more nurses per capita working in Newfoundland and Labrador than the Canadian average, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would appreciate the minister to stand some day and tell us how many of the positions are empty.

Mr. Speaker, reliance by government on the professionalism of registered nurses to provide care, despite terrible working conditions, seems to be government’s short-sighted plan. This situation cannot continue without patient care and the health of our nurses being affected.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: When will she stop solving her problems on the backs of the nurses and develop a more responsible, long-term staffing plan?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we have done in terms of ensuring that we have more nurses working than we have ever had before. We have nurses working the full scope of practice which they never did before. LPNs in particular are very proud in this Province these days to be working to their full scope of practice.

We are very proud of the work that we are doing with our nurses within this Province. We are hearing back from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they too are very proud.

Mr. Speaker, if I just might continue on in terms of other work that we are doing. If you look at the number of nurses who are graduating every year in Newfoundland and Labrador and the percentage of those that we are hiring, we are now 85 per cent plus in terms of the numbers of nurses (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL:Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Nurses work in a constant crisis of understaffing. The minister is not acknowledging that. The cost of nurse turnover is estimated to be 20 per cent to 30 per cent more than an RN’s annual salary, plus overtime costs, which puts added pressure on health authority budgets.

I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: What long-term plan has she for addressing government’s failure to properly provide for appropriate nursing levels in the health care system?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I can only tell her again, I suppose, that we have more nurses per capita working in Newfoundland and Labrador than in the country; 53 per cent more nurses per capita working in Newfoundland and Labrador –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: – more than we have ever had in our entire history, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there may be pockets every now and then where there are more nurses who happen to call in sick on a particular day and so on. That happens in any profession, Mr. Speaker, absolutely any profession that you can consider.

There are initiatives in place to mitigate that, Mr. Speaker. We constantly monitor that; we constantly work on that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Associated Caucus Members: 

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