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Media Release: Chronic Healthcare Staff Shortages

Nov 25, 2021

The UNW has been hearing about issues stemming from lack of healthcare staff since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a systemic issue that is rooted in a long history of underfunding healthcare and health support programs.

We continue to hear that morale is low at Stanton, particularly because of short-staffing. The lack of staff sets off a ripple effect resulting in workers getting less time off, working longer hours, taking on additional duties, and having to cover more shifts. This situation affects all our healthcare workers, not just nurses.

The current situation with OBS at Stanton is an unfortunate symptom of chronic turnover and worker burnout. The employer has told us that OBS has been one of the hardest departments to staff and staffing has been an issue for years.

The decision to send patients south is devastating not only for the families affected, but also for the healthcare workers in OBS, as they are naturally concerned for the comfort and wellbeing of their patients.

It is our understanding that the OBS workers at Stanton will stay in that department to provide care in emergency situations.                                                           

The UNW feels for the families affected by this nursing shortage, and we recognise that this must be especially difficult for families in more remote communities who must now travel even farther from their homes and support networks for care.

The UNW recognizes that there are nursing shortages across Canada, and this makes it especially important for employers to take care of the workers they do have.

With retention being one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare right now, employers need to treat workers fairly and find creative solutions to the pressures that workers are facing. Band-aid solutions that fail to address the systemic issues will only continue to prolong the problem.

The pandemic has shown us how quickly the GNWT can adapt its workplaces and policies; we know that positive change can happen if the will exists. We need all government departments to work together to find holistic solutions to the many issues that feed into this crisis. 

The collective agreement between unionized workers and the GNWT also provides flexibility for finding solutions to many of the specific issues our healthcare workers are facing. The employer needs to listen to what our members are saying and work with the Union in a meaningful way to find those solutions.

The UNW will always advocate for our members, and we are always ready and willing to have meaningful discussions with employers to find creative solutions to systemic workplace issues.

Gayla Thunstrom
UNW President


Media inquiries should be directed to:

Communications Officer
Union of Northern Workers
Phone: 867-447-0433