Four spots added to respiratory therapist class
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Four seats have been added to University of Manitoba’s most recent class of aspiring respiratory therapists as the provincial government promises to fill vacancies exposed by the pandemic.
The class size increased to 20 students in the three-year bachelor of respiratory therapy program this month as a result of $482,000 in provincial funding, which the government included in its 2022 budget.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Jon Reyes, minister of advanced education, officially announced the funding at the John Buhler Research Centre Wednesday afternoon, describing it as one example of the government’s investment in health care.
“I want to ensure Manitobans that our government… remains committed to strengthening the health-care system, now and for the years to come,” Gordon said.
Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost of health sciences, and dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at U of M, said increasing the number of respiratory therapists in Manitoba is “vital” to the health-care system. He said their integral role became even more clear when the COVID-19 pandemic began. He said the field has a projected vacancy rate of 25 to 30 per cent in coming years. The current vacancy rate for Manitoba respiratory therapists in the workforce is roughly 20 per cent.
Graduating respiratory therapist Lisa Birchard, who completed her degree this year, pointed out two classes of new respiratory therapists recently graduated early to support the health-care system thanks to the university program.
“It is important that we make the necessary changes as the demand for respiratory therapists continues to increase,” she said.
Each year, an average of 65 to 70 students are put on the wait list for the program.
NDP health care critic Uzoma Asagwara criticized the lack of focus on retention in the funding announcement, saying investment in training isn’t enough.
“It will take three years to see these therapists actually working in hospital, and in the meantime without a focused retention strategy, Manitoba will continue to lose frustrated and overworked front-line staff. Investing in training alone will not fix health care,” they said.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.