Head of New Brunswick health network defends big spending on travel nurse contracts

  • Canadian Press

Georges L Dumont public hospital in Moncton, N.B. is shown on Thursday Oct. 8, 2020. The head of New Brunswick's francophone health network, Dr. France Desrosiers, launched a spirited defence of Vitalite's spending on travel nurse contracts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison

FREDERICTON -- The head of New Brunswick's francophone Vitalite Health Network launched a spirited defence today of the organization's spending on travel nurse contracts.

Dr. France Desrosiers told a legislature committee that the decision to contract private firms to provide temporary nurses was a matter of "saving human lives by maintaining essential services."

The province's auditor general singled out the spending in a June 4 report, finding that between Jan. 1, 2022, and Feb. 29, 2024, Vitalite paid more than $123 million for travel nurses -- including $98 million to Ontario-based agency Canadian Health Labs.

The prices charged by Canadian Health Labs under its contract with Vitalite, which continues until February 2026, were described as exorbitant by Health Minister Bruce Fitch.

Desrosiers says the network had little choice but to sign with Canadian Health Labs because the firm had a "monopoly" on bilingual staff.

Auditor general Paul Martin also said the network refused to give his office access to three internal audits, which Vitalite defended by saying those documents were shielded by a non-disclosure agreement.

This report by was first published June 20, 2024.