New Brunswick

N.B. Nurses Union objects to Horizon's claim that vacations caused shortage

After Horizon’s interim CEO and president, Margaret Melanson, cited vacations and a large music concert in Dieppe as two of the reasons for chronically low staffing rates, Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses’ Union, said this connotation was “uncalled for.”

Nurses union president says the province is losing health-care workers due to burnout or stress

New Brunswick Nurses Union president Paula Doucet said the shortage in the health-care system has been around for many years. (Radio-Canada)

The head of the New Brunswick Nurses Union is taking issue with how the Horizon Health Network explained a staffing shortage on the weekend.

A critical shortage of nurses prompted emergency services to be cut back on the weekend at two of New Brunswick's largest hospitals — the Moncton Hospital and the Saint John Regional Hospital. 

Horizon interim CEO and president, Margaret Melanson, cited vacations and a large music concert in Dieppe as two of the reasons for chronically low staffing rates. She also cited COVID-19 cases among staff.

Paula Doucet, president of the nurses union, said the implication was "uncalled for."

The front entrance doors of the Moncton Hospital in Moncton, New Brunswick.
ERs at 2 of N.B.'s largest hospitals scaled back over the weekend because of a nurse shortage. Patients with non-life-threatening conditions were asked to stay away from the Moncton Hospital and the Saint John Regional Hospital. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

"I think it's troubling anytime somebody questions the validity of workers taking granted vacation and earned vacation," said Doucet. "This shortage in our health-care system, quite frankly, has been around for many, many years."

In a statement from Horizon Health Network, Melanson reiterated that the shortage from the weekend was due to a combination of factors, including earned vacation, but also an increased demand in the emergency departments. She said she contacted Doucet to talk about the shared commitment with the nurses union regarding recruitment and retention.

Doucet said health-care professionals have been working to hold up the health-care system under the current situation, and despite new hires, the province is also losing many health-care workers because of burnout and stress.

There are other contributing factors to the nursing shortage, she said, including not graduating enough new nurses from local college and university programs. 

"If we have the lowest paid nurses in the country, [and] we have a very heavy workload, of course some of these graduates are going to choose to work elsewhere," she said. 

Doucet said the province is falling short in providing sustainable health-care to New Brunswickers, which is why many residents must go to the emergency department for all health-care needs. 

She said there needs to be robust investment into the health-care system and into clinics with multi-disciplinary health-care providers. 

Doucet said until the number on the doctor wait list is addressed, the situation will continue to get worse. 

"I need to have meetings along with my other colleagues in health-care, with government and with the CEOs of both Vitalité and Horizon to come up with some ways to ensure that health-care delivery and support for our health-care professionals are there," said Doucet.


Hannah Rudderham is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick. She grew up in Cape Breton, N.S., and moved to Fredericton in 2018. You can send story tips to

With files from Harry Forestell


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