Hazy health-care plan lacks real details
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Manitobans continue to be left in the dark over the Stefanson government’s alleged plan to hire, retain and train 2,000 health care workers. It may be aptly described as an “alleged” plan, since the province continues to provide few, if any, details about the program, including when and how it expects to solve an acute staffing shortage in hospital emergency rooms.
Three months after Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced the human resources “action plan,” there are still no progress reports, no breakdowns of where scheduling gaps exist on hospital wards and no targets — including timelines — on when vacancies will be filled.
Last week, Ms. Gordon announced that government plans to spend $123 million to retain, recruit and support nurses through nine initiatives. Some of those strategies, launched last month, are useful and will likely help reduce staff shortages in hospitals. They include higher premiums for overtime and weekend shifts, and annual bonuses for nurses accepting full-time positions.
However, the province has not released statistics showing net changes in hospital staffing complements. The province says more than 330 new health-care providers have been hired since the plan was announced in November. But there are no data on how many front-line workers have resigned or retired during that period.
Without calculating and publishing the net change in the workforce, the province is unable to demonstrate whether it is making progress.
Instead, Ms. Gordon continues to make vague pronouncements about how she believes the measures are starting to show “positive results.” She has provided no hard evidence to support those claims.
Mike Nader, president and chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, also had no meaningful updates to share with Manitobans at last week’s news conference. He said he’s “hearing” from his colleagues at Shared Health that the new incentives for nurses “are beginning to help” with the number of vacant shifts on weekends.
That is not a progress report. That is anecdotal information, which is of little value to the public.
According to the Manitoba Nurses Union, the average vacancy rate for nurses in Manitoba is almost 25 per cent.
When asked if the new incentives to retain and attract nurses will offset the projected number of staff expected to leave the workforce in the coming years, Mr. Nader said he did not know. That analysis has either not been done, or the province has chosen not to release it.
According to the Manitoba Nurses Union, the average vacancy rate for nurses in Manitoba is almost 25 per cent. It is higher at Grace Hospital’s emergency department and in northern communities. There are about 2,800 nursing vacancies across the province. The union says even with the new incentives, the number of nurses leaving the workforce continues to outnumber new hires. If that is true (the province has not refuted that statement), it means the problem is getting worse, not better.
Much of the nursing shortage in Winnipeg was caused by the Progressive Conservative government’s hospital consolidation plan implemented between 2017 and 2019. The changes were brought in without consulting front-line workers, causing many to retire early or seek employment elsewhere (including in the private sector), rather than accept positions many felt they were not qualified to fill.
The exodus of nurses following consolidation was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and made worse by a national nursing shortage. To counter that, the province needs an effective, detailed action plan that includes targets and regular progress reports. So far, Manitobans have not seen that.