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This article was published 21/4/2021 (222 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg health facilities are short close to 1,300 nurses, and the situation is growing worse, according to information made public Wednesday.
The Manitoba NDP says the new numbers, which it obtained under freedom of information legislation, show why hallway medicine is returning to Manitoba.
A day earlier, the Opposition party drew attention to overcrowding in the emergency department at Grace Hospital, where a 93-year-old woman spent five days on a stretcher before being admitted to a ward.
According to the new information, there were 1,283 vacant nursing positions across the city — a 17 per cent rate — in January. That was up from 15 per cent last July.
Nursing vacancies were especially high in the emergency departments of two of Winnipeg's three acute-care hospitals. At Grace Hospital, the ER vacancy rate was 20 per cent, up from 9.7 per cent in July, while at St. Boniface Hospital, it stood at 22 per cent, compared with 20.6 per cent in July.
Health Sciences Centre's ER nursing vacancy rate was 12.9 per cent in January and 9.6 per cent in July 2020.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew called the nursing shortage a "system failure," and he laid the blame on the Pallister government.
"That woman was in the hospital for five days because 20 per cent of the jobs in that area are empty. They don’t have a nurse working in them," Kinew said.
He noted that in the recent provincial budget, the government cut funding for acute-care services by $13 million.
The president of the Manitoba Nurses Union said she's been sounding the alarm about the province's nursing shortage for at least two years.
Darlene Jackson said. "It's getting extremely worrying."
Jackson said the health system is being propped up by an exhausted nursing workforce that has been burdened with huge amounts of overtime.
Manitoba needs a plan to recruit and retain more nurses, she said, noting the nursing shortage exists across the country.
Ontario, alone, requires an additional 20,000 registered nurses, Jackson said.
In this competitive environment, Manitoba nurses have gone four years without a collective agreement, and the Pallister government's message to all public-sector workers is to expect wage freezes in the first two years of any new agreement.
Jackson said while the nursing vacancy situation in Winnipeg is worrisome, it's dire in the north. The vacancy rate in the Northern health authority is 47.4 per cent, she said.
"It’s frightening for the north to have vacancy rates that high," she added.
She called Premier Brian Pallister's recent call for retired Manitoba nurses to assist Ontario "absolutely absurd." Manitoba needs to look after its own considerable health care needs first before making offers to other provinces, she said.
Health Minister Heather Stefanson said the nursing shortage has been a challenge across the country for many years.
"What I want to do right now is just thank (nurses) for everything that they’re doing. I know these are not easy times at all," she told reporters Wednesday.
The province's health authorities are working on recruiting and training more nurses, Stefanson said, noting that 37 just received their acute-care credentials with another 40 "in the hopper as well."
"The pandemic has created more challenges for sure, and we’re seeing that across the country. It just means that we have more work to do, and we are committed to making sure we do that work and work with nurses to see how we can recruit and retain them in the province of Manitoba," the minister said.
Stefanson said she's asked the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to look into the situation in the Grace Hospital emergency department to see what is causing the patient backlog and what can be done to alleviate the situation.
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.