The New Brunswick Nurses Union organized a rally outside the provincial legislature this past Friday, September 17, as a part of a national day of action by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union.

“Canada is facing a nursing crisis,” reads the website for the day of action. “Nurses are done asking for safe work, fair contracts, and enough staff to give our patients the care they deserve.”

Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, explained why the day of action was especially important to New Brunswick residents.

“The issues in New Brunswick are dire. We worked 190,000 hours from January to June this year, just to keep our system afloat,” said Doucet. “Nurses are working 24 to 36 hour shifts on a regular basis. We’re missing upwards of 1000 registered nurses in the system right now.”

Doucet said the lack of nurses in the current healthcare system is unsustainable. While the union is advocating for higher wages, respect and better working conditions are also a priority.

“The money is a big part of it, but [it’s also] our working conditions, and listening to what we say, giving us back a little bit of respect, because right now nurses are feeling very much disrespected by governments and employers,” explained Doucet.

Sheila Thomas Ebbett, a registered nurse who attended the rally, echoed the difficulty of the current working conditions, describing how nurses are being moved around the system to fill the many vacant positions due to staff shortages, and that many of them work multiple positions.

“This isn’t about money. It’s not about contracts. It’s not about your normal labor situation. This is a much, much bigger issue,” Ebbett said. “Someone has to change this or there’s not going to be anyone to take care of people like you and me.”

“I think it’s really really shameful how the government, the provincial government and the federal government are treating these workers,” said June Patterson, who attended the rally and recently ran as a Fredericton candidate for the Communist Party of Canada in the 2021 federal election.

“We’d like to see a very strong public healthcare system in this province, and we want to see high wages for our public servants, because the truth is they can move out of province to seek better wages,” said Patterson. “We want to make sure that we stop the out-migration of young people in this province, and we want to make sure that people can get jobs and raise a family here.”