Manitoba hasn’t ruled out asking the military to help in Winnipeg’s overwhelmed hospitals.
"If it’s necessary, we will take action in that direction," Premier Heather Stefanson said Tuesday.
"It’s sometimes on a day-by-day, sometimes an hour-by-hour basis," she said. "We’ll continue to monitor it see what other resources we need and we will will reach out to other levels of government for help on an as-needed basis," she said.
Health care leaders say it’ll take time before current measures to alleviate the pressure take effect.
The main problem is not new, the premier said. "Staffing has been a problem for decades."
Currently, Winnipeg hospital emergency departments have reported being overcapacity, with not enough staff to care for patients who should be moved to wards or care homes or who are being cared for at home.
"We’ll continue to assess it… to see how we can work together to ensure that patient flow continues throughout the system to ensure that we free up as many ER spots as we can," Stefanson said.
Manitoba Nurses’ Union spokeswoman Brandi Johnson said calling in the military would be "a temporary solution to a hemorrhaging health-care system."
The union said the vacancy rate for nurses provincewide is 20 per cent, with a high of 33 per cent in the northern region and 17 per cent in Winnipeg and the Interlake-Eastern regions.
"It was our hope to have a mechanism in place by now that kept nurses here, or brought retired nurses back, but nothing we have seen has changed the trajectory of burnout exhaustion which drives nurses out that can leave," she said.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon said neither Shared Health nor health-care leaders have recommended asking the military to help at hospitals.
"We’ve come through an unprecedented pandemic and the challenges on the health system have been great," Gordon said. "We recognize it will take time for us to come out of that pandemic situation."
Powerview-Pine Falls is the latest rural emergency department that has had to temporarily close due to a lack of staff.
Gordon called that "one of many challenges and pressures on the system" and promised there will be "more solutions."
Several steps taken by Shared Health to improve patient flow and open up inpatient capacity show promise, but the challenge is not going to be resolved overnight, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Long-standing patient flow challenges have been worsened by the pandemic, resulting in longer wait times in emergency departments and urgent care centres throughout Winnipeg, he said.
"More time and more work is needed before significant improvement is likely to be seen," he said, noting an update on the situation will be given later this week.
The spokesman insisted patients in need of the most urgent care are seen quickly and all patients are triaged upon arrival.
The NDP said that doesn’t cut it.
"Manitobans cannot afford to wait days for emergency care and years for surgery," MLA Uzoma Asagwara said in an email.
"The PCs have ignored the crisis they created in our health-care system for too long and now we’re all paying the price," the former nurse said. "It’s clear that immediate action is needed to support health-care staff, reduce wait times and ensure our loved ones get the care they need when they need it."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.