The situation is dire for respiratory therapists working 12-hour shifts in intensive care units, says Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.
"There's very little chance for even a break, so they're working 12 hours — full speed, full-out," Moroz said Friday.
Like nursing, recruitment and retention of respiratory therapists has long been an problem in a province that consolidated health-care services to cut costs and pays them 10 per cent less than counterparts in other provinces, he said.
The patient-to-respiratory therapist ratio is normally 5-1 in an ICU, but since the number of COVID-19 admissions have risen, therapists are each having to care for seven or eight and sometimes more patients, Moroz said.
When an ICU patient is transferred out of province, the respiratory therapist pulled away to accompany them often ends up putting in more than a 12-hour shift, he said.
"It's just the sheer volume of work, and the speed, and the fact that they have to stretch themselves out even thinner is very, very difficult on them right now," said the union leader.
While there's no mandatory overtime, when six-week schedules are posted, there will typically be more than 100 empty shifts, he said. "Somebody has to pick up those shifts... because there is no one else to do it."
Respiratory therapists are under great pressure because they're needed to keep people alive, said Moroz.
"There's an immense sense of pride that they have in their chosen profession. To hear people saying, 'I don't know if I can do this anymore'... it's heartbreaking. And it's also very dangerous — a very bad sign for our system going forward, post-pandemic."
— Carol Sanders