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October 11, 2023

Federal health minister and national nurse union leaders discuss critical strategies to end health crisis

Health Human Resources
Media Release

Silas: Collaboration on retaining nurses is vital to all areas of care

October 11, 2023 (CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I.) – As the country’s health ministers hold critical meetings around the future of our public health systems, Canada’s nurses are urging all levels of government to fix the nursing shortage and end the crisis in care. That was the message nurse union leaders from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador brought to Federal Health Minister Mark Holland at a meeting today.

“Retaining nurses is vital to our public health care system, and it is encouraging that our federal minister is giving retention the focus that is needed and deserved,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “Now it’s time to see these conversations turn into concrete action as provinces and territories finalize their action plans as part of their bilateral agreements with the federal government.”

As nurses continue to face persistent staffing shortages and high workloads, they are working increasingly long hours – up to 24 hours at a time. As a band-aid solution, health care employers have increased their reliance on private nursing agencies to meet staffing needs. This overreliance comes at a high cost to taxpayers and stands to pull nurses out of permanent full-time jobs in the public health care system.

Silas emphasized the importance of governments listening to and working with frontline nurses to ensure a complete recovery of every sector of care, from family medicine to mental health and addictions.

“Nurses understand our health care systems intimately, and they are ready to work with governments on proven evidence-based strategies to pull health care out of this crisis,” said Silas. “Improving working conditions is the key to retaining nurses and growing the nursing workforce to alleviate the pressures facing every corner of the health care system. As has been said before but remains very true today: the conditions of work are the conditions of care.”

The CFNU is calling on provincial and territorial governments to use this year’s increase to the Canada Health Transfer and funding from the bilateral agreements to bolster the nursing workforce by investing in strong retention initiatives, enabling a robust recovery of the country’s health care systems. With a pan-Canadian approach to workforce planning data and collaboration between governments, employers and unions, we can ensure our public health care system is strong for generations to come.

“The health human resources crisis cannot be fixed by one province alone,” Silas emphasized. “We must all be at the table together, working collaboratively on strategic solutions to retention. Nurse-to-patient ratios, ethical recruitment of internationally educated nurses, phasing out private staffing agencies and support for our nursing students are challenges we can face together to create a stronger and healthier future.”


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 250,000 frontline unionized nurses and nursing students in every sector of health care – from home care and LTC to community and acute care – and advocating on key priorities to strengthen public health care across the country.

For more information please contact Adella Khan, CFNU Communications,, 613‑807-2942.