This nurse who left Labrador to work in Nova Scotia says new incentives to return from NL are not enough

Doreen Hawco-Mahoney worked as a senior nurse in Labrador for 23 years. She says incentives from the provincial government alone are not enough to bring her back to Labrador. (Bailey White/CBC)

A nurse from Happy Valley-Goose Bay who now works in Nova Scotia’s health care system says Newfoundland and Labrador’s new incentives for health professionals aren’t worth the mandatory overtime and the additional stress that would ensue.

Doreen Hawco-Mahoney worked for Labrador-Grenfell Health as a registered nurse for 23 years, but made what she said was a difficult decision to move to Nova Scotia in 2019.

Although proud of her care in her home province, she said finding a work-life balance was impossible and called herself a « victim of the system ».

« One day I just made the decision, you know, that I have to make a positive change. Because at that time I had a six-year-old, and my fear was that I wouldn’t live long enough for the see grow up,” Hawco-Mahoney told CBC News from Bridgewater, N.S.

She was quick to examine the incentives announced by Health Minister Tom Osborne earlier this month to attract medical professionals. The incentives, advertised under the provincial brand Come Home Year, provide back-to-service agreements to eligible doctors, nurses and paramedics who have lived out of province for at least six months.

Back-to-duty agreements vary by profession, with eligible doctors offering $100,000 for a five-year deal, and primary care paramedics and registered nurses offering $50,000 for a three-year back-to-duty deal – in addition to any other incentive offered by the provincial government.

However, Hawco-Mahoney says the money would not improve his quality of life outside the system – and mandatory overtime put in place to address the shortage of available professionals in the province is a major deterrent.

She makes less money in Nova Scotia than she would in Labrador, she said, but she feels more empowered and is overall happier working in Nova Scotia.

« I accept that I make less money in Nova Scotia, but I don’t have to work. The schedule allows for more flexibility, there are more scheduling options. So you feel more empowered in your workplace.…I feel very valued and respected here,” she said.

« I’ve seen a lot of people come to Labrador, I’ve seen them disenfranchised and unhappy. »

Hawco-Mahoney says she hopes more can be done to help people inside the system who are dealing with mandatory overtime and allow for a healthy work-life balance.

« A previous generation, we lived to work. We live in changing times, the new professionals in the system, they succeed. They work to live. »

A man dressed in a navy blue suit with a blue tie talks to reporters in the Confederation Building.
Health Minister Tom Osborne said recruiting more nurses and other healthcare professionals would help ease the load on workers currently in the healthcare system. (Danny Arensault/CBC)

Hawco-Mahoney raised her concerns directly with Osborne in a letter to which she says the minister responded by asking what it would take to get her home to Newfoundland and Labrador.

« We want to see our medical professionals stay, obviously, and we understand there’s work to be done, » Osborne told reporters at the House of Assembly on Thursday. « We listen, we respond. I can say, you know, this won’t be fixed overnight. »

Osborne said Come Home Year initiatives have brought some medical professionals to the country, but the provincial government is also working to alleviate the need for mandatory overtime by increasing recruitment efforts.

“We need more nurses working side by side with the nurses who are there. We need more healthcare professionals working side-by-side with the healthcare professionals who are in the system to help lift the load,” he said.

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