A looming strike that would send 3,600 Capital Health workers to the picket lines has been pushed back by a day.

Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union President Joan Jessome says the new strike deadline is 7 a.m. Thursday. She says mediation talks between Local 42 and the province will continue Wednesday morning at 10:30.

Jessome wouldn’t say how the talks were going, only that the two sides have been sequestered for four straight days and that talks were ‘ongoing’.

“We felt that it was too dangerous for both patients and staff to call a strike throughout the night,” Jessome told the Canadian Press.

“We have not had an opportunity to speak to our members since this started,” she said. “But we did make a commitment that our members would know what’s going on. To ask them to go on strike without any information about what’s happened at the mediation table we didn’t feel was fair.”

Local 42 represents workers in several positions including licensed practical nurses, social workers and lab technicians.

The health authority is already reducing services in anticipation of the strike.

The district’s chief of surgery said 172 beds have been closed, 300 surgeries and nearly 2,000 outpatient appointments have been cancelled.

“We aimed to discharge 100 patients and we’ve achieved slightly more than that,” Dr. David Kirkpatrick told the Rick Howe Show Tuesday. “We’ve done that mainly by not taking in as many patients to do scheduled or elected surgery.”

Kirkpatrick explained the hospital will only be conducting emergency surgeries, and added that anyone whose appointment was cancelled will maintain their priority.

“So emergencies, you could classify those as, surgeries that need to be done within 24 hours or there would be risk to a person’s life, limb or vision,” said Kirkpatrick.

The union is looking for a 5.1 per cent raise in the first year, which would match an arbitrator’s award to the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, followed by cost-of-living increases in the following two years.

Capital Health offered one per cent in each of the three years.

Annapolis Valley resident and health care blogger Allan Lynch said he supports the union members’ right to strike, though he said it can be frightening and frustrating for the public.

“Why are we putting all of this on the backs of the people going on strike?” said Lynch. “Why isn’t management wearing some of this? They’re the ones who have been intransigent about moving on things. Why do we always assume that it’s the person who goes on strike who has to make concessions.”

Lynch said the province has a history of not bargaining in good faith with health care workers, by letting negotiations extend for 18 to 24 months after a two-year contract has lapsed.

The NDP government resisted calls Tuesday to intervene in the dispute, saying bargaining should be allowed to run its course between the union and health board management.