A massive CUPE strike planned for a week from Monday could cause cancellations, delays and long waits at hospitals in HRM as city centres struggle to cover the influx of patients, a Capital District Health Authority vice-president warned Thursday.
“We are concerned,” Ken Baird said. “We’re viewing this as a potential and hoping it doesn’t happen, but we are part of the health system of Nova Scotia … so Capital Health is working with the other districts to ensure we have an appropriate process in place to continue to provide appropriate care for Nova Scotians.”
The union for more than 7,000 school and hospital support staff who work outside Halifax announced Wednesday they will go on strike Jan. 18 if a contract isn’t finalized.
Capital Health workers aren’t part of the proposed strike, but would have to deal with the spillover. Nova Scotian schools outside of HRM would also be hit as thousands of education workers take up pickets.
Union leaders say their key demand is maintaining wage parity between provincial workers and those in Halifax.
Baird said Capital Health is talking closely with health-care providers across the province to gauge the level of extra demand Capital Health should anticipate. While the other districts will maintain some emergency presence, Baird said, “We’re anticipating we’re going to see more referrals through our emergency department.”
Given that the QEII Health Sciences Centre declared three Code Census alerts in one day earlier this week as the ER was overwhelmed by patients, that could spell even greater delays as the system struggles to handle an influx from around the province.
Non-urgent and elective surgeries would be “pushed down” the waiting list, Baird said, and ER patients will need patience when facing potential long delays in receiving treatment.
“It will continue to add pressure to the system here in Halifax,” he said.