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Houston defends redeployment of nursing students to long-term care homes

The students are being asked to help alleviate staffing shortages caused by COVID-19

4 min read
caption British Columbia Premier John Horgan chaired a news conference of Canada’s Premiers focused on health. Photo: Josefa Cameron

Premier Tim Houston has defended a plan to have Dalhousie nursing students work in long-term care facilities, rather than completing clinical practicums this term in acute care settings.

The Signal reported Friday that semester four and five nursing students are having classes suspended and are being asked to move into long-term care placements starting Monday, or seek paid employment in the care facilities. This is to help the province preserve services amid staffing shortages caused by the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“We want nursing students, particularly those here in Nova Scotia to see this as a place where they want to stay and live and work,” Houston said. “We don’t want to be offside of them and frustrate them with things, but certainly, we’ve asked them to step up and help in our long-term care facilities.”

Some students at Dal have started an online petition to protest the change to their practicums. Students say the change means they will lose out on placements in March that would have placed them in acute care settings such as the ICU. They say they’ve already had placements in long-term care.

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But the premier defended the change.

“Our intention is not to diminish their education. Our intention is to add to their education, supplement their education, with other practical experiences,” Houston said.

He added that he is “blown away” at Nova Scotians’ response to COVID-19. In addition to the nursing students, he put out a call for health care professionals to come out of retirement to help with staffing shortages.

Houston’s comments came at a news conference following a meeting of the provincial premiers on health care Friday. Houston joined his colleagues in pressing for more health care funding from Ottawa.

caption Tim Houston seen in a screenshot speaking at a news conference of Canada’s Premiers focused on health. Photo: Josefa Cameron

In the virtual news conference, British Columbia Premier John Horgan spoke for all 13 premiers, saying an increase in funding would ensure “the services that people expect and deserve in Canada are uniform from coast to coast to coast.”

Pandemic or no pandemic, the premiers agree that health care professionals provide quality service that is not sustainable with the current model. They also agree that a rebalancing of funding would help provide the services that people depend on.

In his own cancer recovery, Horgan said he’s seen strain on the faces of nurses and doctors.

“We need help to be coming on the horizon and we need it in the form of more funding coming from the federal government.”

During the past two years, the premiers have pushed for an increase in federal funding to 35 per cent of health care costs.

When the Health Act was established in 1984, Horgan said public funding for health care in Canada was more or less a 50/50 proposition between Ottawa and the provinces.

“Over the past 50 years we’ve seen an erosion of federal funding to the point now where it is, in some cases, only 22 per cent of the total funding needed to provide services,” he said, adding, “that means the provinces are picking up the rest of that funding, and that is not sustainable.”

Through the pandemic, the federal government worked with premiers to ensure workers, businesses, and communities were supported. Now provinces and territories are coming together, “to call on the federal government to join with us and renew the partnership for public health care in Canada,” Horgan said.

According to Horgan, publicly funded health care “is as Canadian as hockey. It separates us from our neighbours to the south.”


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