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Nova Scotia offering nurses up to $20,000 to keep them from leaving public health system

March 20, 2023
The Canadian Press

Photo: karrastock/Adobe Stock
By Lyndsay Armstrong

Nova Scotia is offering nurses up to $20,000 in bonuses to keep them in the province’s public health system — or to encourage them to return.

The “retention incentives” are a way of thanking Nova Scotia’s nurses and health-care workers, Premier Tim Houston said Monday.

“I hope that this money will make a difference to a lot of families around the province,” Houston told reporters at the Dartmouth General Hospital.

‘We need you’

“My message to every nurse in the province is simple: We need you.”


Nova Scotia will give all full-time nurses in long-term care homes and hospitals a $10,000 bonus, and they will be offered an additional $10,000 bonus if they sign an agreement to continue working full time for two years.

The province will also award $10,000 to Nova Scotia nurses who have left the public system but who agree to return and sign a two-year, full-time contract by March 31. As well, the government will give $5,000 bonuses to other health workers, including paramedics, telehealth staff, respiratory therapists, continuing-care staff, ward clerks, and housekeeping and food service workers in the province.

Houston said the money is to “recognize your sacrifice and say to you that as long as you keep working in Nova Scotia in our health-care system, your government will have your back.”

“Money certainly isn’t everything, but it’s something,” the premier added.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson said the bonuses, which will be distributed in the coming weeks, will cost around $350 million. They will cost the government $110 million next year, she added.

“We’ve heard from nurses that they feel, as (do) other health-care workers, that we need to signal (to them) that we want them to stay,” Thompson said. “And we’ve done that today.”

The minister said it’s her hope that as many as 1,500 to 2,000 nurses who at one point worked in Nova Scotia’s public health system may return because of the bonuses.

‘Fantastic news’: Union

Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, said the bonuses are “fantastic news.”

“We’ve been saying for a long time that retaining nurses is every bit as important, if not more, than recruiting,” Hazelton said Monday.

She said the bonuses, as well as the premier and minister’s message of thanks to health-care workers, are “very welcome and very much appreciated.”

Hazelton, however, said the province still needs to address other concerns, including nurses’ workloads and the frequency of violence they face on the job.

“We are still working (short-staffed) and we’re still injuring too many nurses, and there’s still too much violence,” Hazelton said.

“So all of those issues have to be addressed and we intend to address each and every one of them in bargaining.”

The Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions began in-person negotiations with the provincial Health Department and health authority on Feb. 28. The existing collective agreement for Nova Scotia nurses expired Oct. 31, 2020.

The bonuses announced Monday will be distributed outside of any wage agreements that may be negotiated with unions.

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