Safe staffing levels for nurses could cut Canadian health care costs, according to CFNU

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Publication date: 
Wed, 2015-06-03

Canadian public health care nurses worked more than 19 million hours of paid and unpaid overtime in 2014, report shows again

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 (Halifax, NS) – Paid and unpaid overtime continues to exert a significant toll on the health and well-being of frontline nurses and contributes to higher than necessary costs, a new report prepared for the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions shows.

The report by Jacobson Consulting Inc., released today by the CFNU, supports the call for safe nurse staffing levels to reduce the health care system’s reliance on both paid and unpaid overtime, leading to reduced absenteeism rates and associated costs.

“Overtime contributes to excessive workloads and high levels of absenteeism, which erode safe, quality patient care,” says CFNU President Linda Silas “We need to have enough nurses to safeguard the health of our patients.”

On average in 2014, the research shows approximately 21,000 of the country’s 268,000 public health care RNs and nurse supervisors were absent each week because of illness or disability. This is a slight increase to 7.9% from 7.5% in 2012.

The report estimates the cost to the system of this level of illness and disability at approximately $846 million per year.

Combined paid and unpaid overtime worked by Canadian public sector health care nurses was estimated by the researcher to be 19.4 million hours per year.

The researcher estimated the cost of this overtime to be almost $872 million in 2014, down from approximately $979 million in 2012. Of the 2014 figure, $679 million was paid by employers, and $192.5 million was borne by nurses themselves.

The initial information from the Jacobson report is being published during CFNU’s 17th Biennial Convention, which is taking place this week in Halifax. Visit CFNU’s website – to see more highlights from the Jacobson report.


The CFNU represents close to 200,000 frontline nurses across Canada through its affiliated unions. Nursing union leaders from throughout Canada, including the presidents of most nurses’ unions, are attending the convention at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre.

For more information, contact Christie Blotnicky of Nova Scotia Nurses Union, 902-818-4453, or by email at

Click here to read the report by Jacobson Consulting Inc.: