Manitoba's New Democrats say they would hire more nurses and provide more training opportunities for nursing students if elected — two steps the Progressive Conservatives insist they are already undertaking in government.
Speaking to three nurses at a campaign event Tuesday about their work struggles and feeling short-staffed, NDP Leader Wab Kinew promised to stabilize the province's health-care system.
Kinew committed to hire at least 50 more nurses system-wide within a first year in office, at an estimated cost of $13.5 million. That's on top of the nurses that would be hired to fill positions at reopened Seven Oaks General Hospital and Concordia Hospital emergency departments, as previously promised.
Kinew couldn't say Tuesday how many nurses would be required at the two renewed city ERs, though he has estimated the cost of those reopenings at $4 million per hospital, and much of that would cover labour costs.
The NDP also promised $1.8 million for 75 new training spots for nursing students at Red River College.
"We're going to listen, we're going to be smart, we're going to be careful, and we're going to be responsible. Because, at the end of the day, these decisions can be life and death," Kinew said.
"And so we can't rush forward with a plan just to meet an artificial political timeline. We have to be responsible and judicious, and make these decisions based on what's in the best interest of people in Manitoba."
Morden-Winkler Tory MLA Cameron Friesen shot back the province has already begun recruiting more nurses.
"We're doing it now. I can tell you there is not just a job for every nurse in the (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) who wants one. I can tell you that we have redoubled our efforts in Winnipeg through the changes we've made to be able to accelerate the hiring of nurses," Friesen said Tuesday.
The WRHA currently has job openings for more than 300 nurses posted online.
Friesen said to "stay tuned" a little longer for more announcements on how the PCs would invest in nursing and health-care more generally.
On Monday, Tory Premier Brian Pallister promised a health-care announcement was on the way Wednesday.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.