Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Budget devotes millions to boosting nurse numbers

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THE NDP's new budget has $2.1 million to create more nurse training positions, which the province says it needs to address a higher number of baby-boomer retirements in the nursing field and to meet the growing aging population, the so-called silver tsunami.

Premier Greg Selinger said Monday the money will be used to create 62 new training seats for nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses at the University of Manitoba, Université de Saint-Boniface and Assiniboine Community College. A six-seat doctoral nursing program at the U of M will also be expanded.

Selinger said the budget also has more than $3.7 million for the Nursing Recruitment and Retention Fund, including grants to recruit nurses to Manitoba from outside the province and to get more nurses to work at personal-care homes.

A study released last year by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found Manitoba had a greater percentage of nurses approaching retirement age than most other provinces.

The study said 40.2 per cent of Manitoba's registered nurses -- nearly 5,000 workers -- were age 50 or over. That compared to 37.7 per cent in that age category nationally.

Selinger said the province is addressing that trend.

"You're starting to see that demographic curve switch back to a younger demographic, but there will be more retirements," he said.

During the October 2011 provincial election, the Manitoba NDP vowed to hire 2,000 nurses over the next four years. Half are intended to replace retiring nurses.

Selinger hinted the government will soon announce additional measures in the budget to hire more physicians. The NDP also promised to hire 200 more doctors and 50 more physician assistants.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald said additional nurses and nurse practitioners are also required to work in personal-care homes and in supervisory roles in home care.

"We know ultimately if we can have our workforce going into people's homes and enable them to age in place a little bit longer, that's good for everybody, not the least of whom is the senior that's been there their whole life," Oswald said.

She said the province is faced with a double whammy of an increasing number of seniors needing institutional care but no federal help to build new personal-care homes.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2013 A6

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Updated on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:55 AM CDT: corrects $21 million to $2.1 million

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