Advertisement

NDP accuse Liberals of misleading public about more than 1,900 health-care vacancies

Health Sciences Centre - General Hospital Prince Phillip Drive St. John's, NL Photo by Paul Daly  (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Health Sciences Centre - General Hospital Prince Phillip Drive St. John's, NL Photo by Paul Daly (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Health Sciences Centre - General Hospital Prince Phillip Drive St. John's, NL Photo by Paul Daly
Health Sciences Centre - General Hospital Prince Phillip Drive St. John's, NL Photo by Paul Daly

An access-to-information request from the provincial NDP shows there are over 1,900 vacancies inside Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care system. (Paul Daly/CBC)

While the Newfoundland and Labrador government has been championing its recruitment and retention of health-care workers, the provincial New Democrats say the public hasn't seen an accurate picture of vacancies in the sector.

On Tuesday, the party shared the details of an access-to-information request that asked for a list of all the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians who have left N.L. Health Services in the past two years and a list of vacancies in all medical related job titles over the same period.

According to the NDP, the number of health-care vacancies across the province's four health zones is 1,905.

Some of the positions have been vacant for as long as 154 weeks — two weeks shy of three years — according to a press release.

"This is the result of, I would say, decades and over several administrations, of a failure to address those needs. And this is the consequence. This is the crisis that's been created," NDP Leader Jim Dinn told reporters Tuesday.

According to the access-to-information request, 1,275 of those vacancies are in the Eastern zone. Some 729 are registered nurses, while 115 doctors — excluding those working in private practice or family doctors with their own practices — have left the system in the last two years.

The request also shows that 1,009 workers have resigned over the same period in just the Eastern zone.

"The word is out. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is not an employer of choice," Churchill said. "When you think about the impact it has on our care and the long-term impact that's going to have on our care … we all should be very scared in how the Liberal government has been handling the health-care system."

NDP Leader Jim Dinn, left, and party candidate Kim Churchill say the government needs to do more to retain health-care workers in light of updated vacancy numbers.
NDP Leader Jim Dinn, left, and party candidate Kim Churchill say the government needs to do more to retain health-care workers in light of updated vacancy numbers.

NDP Leader Jim Dinn, left, with byelection candidate Kim Churchill, says the government needs to do more to retain health-care workers. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Dinn said the numbers highlight a retention problem in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that the province is losing as many workers as it attracts. He wants officials to do more to stop that from happening.

"The Liberal government has chosen to focus on recruiting foreign workers rather than the dealing with the retention issues that we have here," he said.

"Focus on the retention of public health-care workers, commit to phase out costly travel nurses. Set a date. Pay workers competitively, treat them with respect by listening to them."

'Obviously retention is working': Osborne

Health Minister Tom Osborne said Tuesday the province had been losing more health-care workers than it was gaining but the tide is turning.

The province has done a lot of work to produce numerous retention incentives, like its "Come Home" initiative, which he says has brought over 50 doctors back to Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We've been very open and transparent about the fact that there are vacancies in every discipline of health care in every province of Canada, and in fact, globally," Osborne said.

"We are at a stage, a point in time in history, where there are shortages across all disciplines.… The NDP would like people in this province to think that it's unique to this province. It is a global issue today."

Health Minister Tom Osborne said health-care vacancies aren't a problem exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Health Minister Tom Osborne said health-care vacancies aren't a problem exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Health Minister Tom Osborne says problems with health-care vacancies aren't exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Osborne told reporters he hadn't seen the numbers the NDP shared, but noted the Department of Health did share statistics with the Registered Nurses' Union last week that indicate the number of vacancies are going down — from around 760 nursing vacancies in October 2022 to 715 in October 2023.

"It's trending downwards, so obviously retention is working."

Osborne said an example of retention working is the opening of a fourth radiation unit for cancer patients in St. John's — an announcement that hadn't yet been shared with the public.

He said the unit opened in the first week of January but the government was waiting to announce it until patients who had been sent out of province could be brought back.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.