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Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan are locked in a battle for health-care workers, as the two provinces set up recruiting efforts on each other’s turf.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced Thursday that Health Minister Tom Osborne would be heading to Saskatchewan next week to entice health-care workers to relocate to Canada’s easternmost province. Also on Thursday, recruiters from the Saskatchewan Health Authority were trying to lure workers away from St. John’s, N.L., at recruiting events planned for Memorial University and in a downtown hotel.

Yvette Coffey, president of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Registered Nurses Union, was unimpressed by the duelling recruiting events. The money Osborne will spend on taking a team to Saskatchewan would be better spent improving conditions for workers already in Newfoundland and Labrador and creating a strategy to retain them, she said.

“Let’s work on our province, and work on the health-care system here, and look at the things that actually deter people from taking a permanent, full-time position or remaining in a permanent, full-time position in our province,” she said in an interview.

Furthermore, Coffey said she’d like to see provinces working together on a national retention strategy rather than duking it out for workers.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority’s two-day stop in St. John’s is part of its Eastern Canada recruitment tour, according to a post on the authority’s website. The tour began in Toronto and Montreal earlier this month, and will end in Halifax and Charlottetown in October. Recruiters hosted events on Wednesday and Thursday in St. John’s.

The health authority referred a request for comment to the province’s Department of Health, which did not immediately respond to questions.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s NDP described Osborne’s Saskatchewan trip as an exercise in “unnecessary chest-thumping.”

“If (Osborne) was certain that this province was a favourable place to live, his response to Saskatchewan would have been ‘Go ahead, try it. Our health-care workers are here to stay,’” NDP Leader Jim Dinn said in a news release.

Coffey said there are about 750 vacant nursing positions across Newfoundland and Labrador. Whether or not Saskatchewan’s events this week in St. John’s will increase that number will depend on the compensation and bonuses on offer, she said.

“Right now, we have a lot of disgruntled registered nurses and nurse practitioners in the province, and other health-care workers. If they’re being offered bigger compensation or benefits, we’re likely to lose some,” Coffey said.

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