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John McGarry, Horizon’s Board Chair Discusses New Brunswick’s Critical Nursing Shortage

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John McGarry, Board Chair, Horizon Health Network

June 3, 2019 - Today I would like to discuss the critical nursing shortage that is affecting our health care system.

The current nursing shortage touches all parts of our system as we are experiencing shortages in both hospital and community settings, in both urban and rural communities.

It's time for all of us - the health authorities, government, unions, associations and universities - to come together and address the seriousness of this issue - immediately.

The bottom line: We need to create an environment that fosters the hiring of nurses.

What do I mean by this?

Well, Horizon estimates 320 nurses need to be hired every year for the next five years to meet the current level of service for our patients and clients.

If we're unable to fill our nursing vacancies we will not be able to maintain our current service offerings and will be forced to close certain units and reduce services.

To avoid this, we need to hire nurses.

However, there are many issues that make this task increasingly difficult.

There are recruitment challenges. Horizon is not alone. Health authorities across Canada are experiencing similar issues to fill vacancies.

But recruitment isn't the only issue.

For starters, there has been a decrease in nursing seats available in New Brunswick universities.

Personally, I find this troubling. Why would the number of seats be reduced when there is an immediate need that will continue into the future? Don't we want New Brunswickers to stay in our province and have well-paying jobs? This is just plain bad policy.

University seats alone will not meet our needs for future nurses. We need skilled internationally-educated nurses. That is why it's important for the Nurses Association of New Brunswick to develop a plan to recognize and integrate the skills from other countries into our health care system.

Finally, we should also make it easier for existing staff to transition from being an LPN to an RN, for those who are interested in this career change.

These are just solutions I'm aware of, and I'm confident there are more out there. Which is why Horizon, and our partners, need to work together now to immediately to address the nursing shortage.

This situation is not going to solve itself, and it's certainly not going to get better.

We have an aging population and the need for health care services will increase. We need to get our heads out of the sand and tackle this critical nursing shortage before the quality of health care for New Brunswickers is negatively affected and services are reduced.

I invite all stakeholders to join together to discuss how we can solve this problem.

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