MEDIA RELEASE: Health Employers Resort to Desperate Measures to Recruit Ultrasonographers/MRI Techs

DARTMOUTH – Staffing levels for some highly skilled diagnostic imaging staff have reached such critically low levels at the IWK Health Centre and Nova Scotia Health that employers have started poaching staff from one another, and are now hiring private agency staff in a desperate attempt to fill the gaps.  

On November 6th, 2023, Premier Houston hosted a national Premier’s conference in Halifax. At this National Health Care Summit, he worked hard to have other Premier’s sign on to his pledge that provinces and territories should stop trying to recruit health care workers who are already on the job elsewhere in Canada.  

“It was a wise move, considering we offer almost all of our health care workers the lowest wages in the country,” said NSGEU President Sandra Mullen.  

At the time, Premier Houston told CBC“Trying to poach workers from another jurisdiction is not really supporting each other.”  

But behind the scenes, in contradiction of the Houston pledge, the Premier’s own health employers – the NSH and IWK – are regularly poaching staff from each other. Since 2023, five Ultrasonographers have left the IWK and went to Nova Scotia Health (NSH) who offered four of them a $10,000 signing bonus.   

Less than a month later, on December 4th, 2023, Premier Houston took the additional step of announcing that Nova Scotia was going to wean itself off of its reliance on travel nurses. These nurses are brought in to address shortages at great cost: they are paid almost double the rate paid to permanent staff, and often have little or no familiarity with the work area they are assigned to, so they can require much assistance from existing staff.  

Houston’s announcement included an order that restricted the use of travel nurses in Nova Scotia public sector facilities.  

However, contrary to the Premier’s direction on travel nurses, the NSH is staffing the two modular MRI Machines at the newly opened Bayers Lake Community Outpatient Centre with travel MRI technologists and the new Dartmouth MRI will use travel technologists. The province will pay travel MRI Techs $75 an hour – roughly $35 an hour more than its own staff. The IWK has also informed the union it plans to use private travel Ultrasonographers.  

“The obvious result, as Premier Houston surmised for nurses, is Ultrasonographers and MRI technologists who wish to stay or work in Nova Scotia will leave the public system to work as travel staff. This will make shortages worse, just like the Premier said about travel nurses,” said Mullen.  

The introduction of travel Ultrasonographers will have the same impact it has had on nursing. Like many of Nova Scotia’s 174 professional health care classifications, Ultrasonographers in Nova Scotia are the lowest paid in Canada, due in large part to former Premier Stephen McNeil’s seven years of wage restraint, including wage freezes.    

Ultrasonographers and MRI Technologists in Nova Scotia are the lowest paid in Atlantic Canada, earning almost $9 an hour less than their counterparts in Newfoundland, which makes recruitment and retention a near-impossible task. 


The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents nearly 37,000 workers who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Sandra Mullen, please contact:

Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer,

902-471-1781 (cell)

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