October 15, 2019

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Expanded St. Boniface Hospital ER faces staff shortages

St. Boniface Hospital continues to expand its emergency department, but the Winnipeg institution can't say when it will be able to fully staff it.

A spokeswoman says the hospital is "actively recruiting" nurses to facilitate "the incremental opening" of the renovated space.

"In the meantime, staff and physicians are capably managing patient volumes within the emergency department," Micheline St-Hilaire said in an email Monday.

No target date has been set for the completion of the fully expanded ER, she said.

St. Boniface Hospital continues to expand its emergency department, but the Winnipeg institution can't say when it will be able to fully staff it.

A spokeswoman says the hospital is "actively recruiting" nurses to facilitate "the incremental opening" of the renovated space.

"In the meantime, staff and physicians are capably managing patient volumes within the emergency department," Micheline St-Hilaire said in an email Monday.

No target date has been set for the completion of the fully expanded ER, she said.

Last month, the large tertiary hospital was forced to redirect patients away from its emergency room for a day because it was swamped with patients. The ER got backed up with admitted patients because of a shortage of beds in other parts of the hospital.

"In the meantime, staff and physicians are capably managing patient volumes within the emergency department." -St. Boniface Hospital spokeswoman Micheline St-Hilaire

The St. B ER is being counted on to handle more traffic with the recent closure of Concordia Hospital's emergency room and the planned closure of the Seven Oaks General Hospital ER. (The latter is expected to be transitioned to an urgent care centre sometime this summer.)

According to the Manitoba Nurses Union, 23 ER nurses were to have transferred to St. Boniface from Concordia but a last-minute decision to replace the Concordia ER with an urgent care centre (instead of a walk-in clinic) caused most to remain where they were. Only six are transferring to St. B now, said Darlene Jackson, MNU president, leaving that hospital short of nurses.

"They already had vacancies. Now, we have 17 positions that need to be filled," Jackson said. "There's no way that they're going to be able to staff those beds."

Given an already sizable nursing shortage at St. Boniface, MNU President Darlene Jackson, is not optimistic the new beds will be staffed soon. (John Woods / Free Press files)

Given an already sizable nursing shortage at St. Boniface, MNU President Darlene Jackson, is not optimistic the new beds will be staffed soon. (John Woods / Free Press files)

St. Boniface Hospital refused multiple requests for an interview.

Last week, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority referred a Free Press reporter's questions on the St. Boniface ER expansion to the hospital.

In an email, St-Hilaire said St. Boniface opened a new triage and assessment space in March, which included three triage stations, eight minor treatment spaces and a new waiting room. A second round of renovations will add 10 new cardiac monitoring beds and two new resuscitation beds to the new space, with specialized equipment being installed this month.

On June 20, WRHA president and chief executive officer Réal Cloutier said in an email to city hospital staff 42 beds would be added to four hospitals — Grace, St. Boniface, Concordia and Health Sciences Centre — to improve system-wide capacity. The beds would come on stream "as soon as they can be reliably staffed."

St. Boniface is to receive nine of these additional beds. "Recruitment has begun" to staff the extra beds, St-Hilaire said.

"Now, it's going to take years to recruit new nurses and train the new nurses to be able to fill these positions" -Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew

But given an already sizable nursing shortage at St. Boniface, Jackson is not optimistic these beds or the new cardiac monitoring beds will be staffed soon.

She said there were 200 nursing vacancies hospital-wide in May, the most recent month for which figures were available.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the Pallister government has "made such a mess of health care" it can't address the problems it's created.

"The renovation in St. Boniface was supposed to be a salve for the (ER) closures at Concordia and Seven Oaks," he said, adding health-care workers are alienated by the "acrimonious" manner in which the government treats them.

"Now, it's going to take years to recruit new nurses and train the new nurses to be able to fill these positions."

Meanwhile, St. Boniface Hospital said the renovations to its emergency department also includes a new mental health space, which is to open sometime this fall.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Monday, July 8, 2019 at 7:49 PM CDT: Fixes typo.

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