NSGEU signs

Registered nurses at the Capital District Health Authority have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike (CBC)

The Capital District Health Authority is beginning to move patients to other parts of the province as it prepares for a threatened strike by 2,300 registered nurses.

On Tuesday, 24 patients at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre were moved to apartments, houses and other hospitals.

"Those that have been sent to a home hospital who still require rehab services will come back once the labour disruption has been settled," said Victoria Sullivan, health services director at Capital Health.

Capital Health is identifying other rehab patients who can be moved. Sullivan said that judging from the staffing levels the authority has been given by nurses, only a third of rehab beds will stay open during a walkout.

Nurses have voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking if their contract dispute is not settled. A main sticking point is the union demand for nurse-to-patient ratios, something opposed by the health authority.

April 3 is the strike deadline and the McNeil government has not said whether it will introduce essential services legislation to keep nurses on the job.

Capital Health is concerned about the staffing levels nurses are prepared to offer during a strike. The health authority says some of the beds that could close include those for seniors with congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

"There’s still a gap from what our clinicians have said they believe we need to be to provide in terms of emergency services," said Kathy MacNeil, a vice-president of people at Capital Health.

The province is also worried.

"The fact that the two sides seem so far apart on the simple issue of what is an emergency in this province is concerning," Premier Stephen McNeil said.