Nurses are the backbone of our health care system and patient care rests primarily in their capable hands.
So when they say that they are struggling to maintain standards of care due to being taken advantage of by the system and overworked, we need to pay attention.
Seventy nurses working in St. Boniface Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit recently co-signed a letter to the hospital’s president, Martine Bouchard, articulating the extreme demand being placed on nurses to deliver proper care without adequate staffing or supports. Whereas previously, staff were only required to work overtime in the case of unforeseen circumstances and conflicts, mandatory overtime is now being used to fill empty shifts.
The result is that nurses are frequently working 16-hour shifts, going home for a few hours of rest, and then returning for their next shift. Since January, the Manitoba Nurses Union has received 1,528 reports of mandatory overtime from nurses at St. Boniface. For comparison, St. Boniface required only 328 instances of mandatory overtime in 2017.
Not only is the current overtime practice not sustainable, it is dangerous. Nurses are being required to work on very few hours of sleep, which puts patient care at risk. Manitobans need to feel confident that their loved ones are receiving the best possible care when they are in the hospital, and right now that cannot be guaranteed.
The present reliance on overtime to fill empty shifts is partially due to the current government’s deletion of over 500 nursing positions. While the vast majority of those nurses were able to get different jobs in the health care system, not all departments regained the same number of personnel. The health care overhaul was implemented quickly and without enough input from nurses themselves. As a result it’s caused a disruption in hospital, and particularly nursing, operations.
Considering the exhaustion and duress under which St. Boniface’s nurses are currently working, I am more concerned than ever about the impending closure of Concordia’s ER. When it occurs, Concordia ER patients will be redirected to St. Boniface’s ER. I worry that the added patient work will only exacerbate the current problem. Our government needs to listen to nurses and take action to support them and the work they do.
Let me know your thoughts regarding healthcare in Manitoba. You can contact me at Matt.Wiebe@yourmanitoba.ca or call me at 204-654-1857.
Concordia constituency report
Matt Wiebe is the NDP MLA for Concordia.