Nova Scotia

Capital Health cancels surgeries as strike looms

Capital Health says only emergency and urgent surgeries will be performed starting tomorrow, as a strike deadline nears could see 3,600 workers off the job.

Capital Health says only emergency and urgent surgeries will be performed starting tomorrow, as a strike deadline nears that could see 3,600 workers off the job.

Members of Local 42 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union can legally strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

The health district —  the largest in the province —  provided an update Monday on its strike preparations.

Barbara Hall, an administrator with Capital Health, said a strike is likely.

"That was our trigger to do this preparation as strong as we're doing, and we've not been given any information that that is not going to be the case," she said.

Dr. David Kirkpatrick, the chief of surgery, said 130 surgeries will be postponed every day during a strike.

"That doesn't mean you go to the end of the line, even if it's a truly elective or non-urgent matter, you would be put on the next available date," he said.

But that message isn't comforting to Aileen Patterson, who has been waiting 15 months for knee replacement surgery.

"I've been very patient over the last, over the year, and at this point a strike is just the last thing I need. The last thing. I'm in pain," she said.

Capital Health is also closing 95 of its 1,300 beds.

Certain mental health care services, including the mobile unit, will remain open through the strike.

"They have allowed us to be, have 100 per cent staffing in our emergency rooms and some of our other services, and we're really taking down our ambulatory and our outpaients," said Hall.

Urgent blood tests for cancer patients and others will be maintained.

Negotiations ongoing

The update comes as contract talks resume between the NSGEU and Capital Health, with the help of mediator Bruce Outhouse.

Earlier Monday, Neil McNeil, a union negotiator, said the fact they're still talking "means something."

When asked if she was optimistic, Robin MacLean, another negotiator for the NSGEU, replied "yes."

Outhouse was equally tight-lipped, but said "so far, so good" as he arrived for the session at a Dartmouth hotel.

Are you a Capital Health worker or a patient? Are you affected by the looming strike? Email us your story at cbcns@cbc.ca.

The two sides returned to the bargaining table on the weekend, after the province announced Friday it was appointing Outhouse to mediate their dispute.

They agreed to take a break Sunday night.

There is a blackout on any details regarding the talks.

There are a number of outstanding contract issues, but a major sticking point is the union's demand for the same 5.1 per cent raise awarded to nurses in an arbitration hearing.

Capital Health says it cannot afford to pay them that much.

The members of NSGEU Local 42 work in 152 job categories. They include licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists, lab workers, ER paramedics and social workers.

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