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This article was published 21/4/2021 (282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba health-care leaders are pleading for more staff and financial support, in the wake of a jarring public letter describing five gruelling days a 93-year-old woman spent on a stretcher in a Grace Hospital hallway.
"During these five days, many patients were packed into this hallway. They were mostly in pain, many immobile, and all afforded little care, water or food," the woman’s daughter — who did not wish to be identified by media — wrote in a letter addressed to Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson.
"Over these five days, I begged for my mother to be admitted to a ward, but was told there were no beds available. My mother continued to deteriorate and became more agitated, thrashing around on the narrow stretcher, constantly begging me to get her out of there."
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew and St. James MLA Adrien Sala joined the presidents of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals and Manitoba Nurses Union outside the Winnipeg hospital to draw attention to this resurgence of "hallway medicine" and the need for more staff resources in the health-care system.
"As we’re in this (COVID-19) third wave, we can’t afford to have hallway medicine be the starting point. It makes us all very vulnerable to the next stages of the pandemic," Kinew said.
"It is being caused by staffing shortages. We know that the nurses, the aides, the physicians, the health-care professionals who are working in hospitals like the Grace are doing their best, given the situation that they’ve been handed by government."
In the letter, the Winnipegger described her mother’s care as "torture," noting she had been left under "glaring, fluorescent lights" in the hospital hallway March 26 to 31, awaiting critical care in the emergency department.
The elderly woman was delirious from a drug prescription and did not receive a COVID-19 test for four days, the letter says.
During time spent at her mother’s side, the woman reported the ER hallway was "overcrowded," and emergency department staff were "overwhelmed" and working long shifts.
Darlene Jackson, MNU president, said Tuesday morale among nursing staff is at an all-time low.
"We have seen a mass exodus of nurses from this system," Jackson said. "Nurses are working, are feeling overwhelmed. The staffing of all health-care providers in the health-care system in Manitoba right now is probably at the lowest I’ve ever seen."
MACHP president Bob Moroz echoed those concerns, adding staff such as social workers, laboratory technicians and diagnostic staff are feeling the burnout, too, noting backlogs for health-care services are only increasing as funding cuts continue to hamper available staff resources.
In her letter, the woman noted she did not fault staff at the hospital for the breakdown in care her mother received; she directed her concerns to the Progressive Conservative government, decrying the impacts of "chronic underfunding" and cost-saving initiatives.
Stefanson said the department has received the letter, and has sent the regional health authority to investigate the situation.
"Certainly, we’ve been going through health-care transformations to try and prevent these things from happening," Stefanson said in an interview Tuesday, adding acute-care facilities are under specific space restrictions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stefanson noted the province has hired approximately 1,700 nurses since June 2019, and are working to train more critical care nurses.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.