Allied health professionals picket outside Bethesda


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Members of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) walked a picket line of sorts on the sidewalk outside Bethesda Regional Health Centre May 11, to call attention to the lack of a contract.

About 50 members of the MAHCP came out on their days off or on unpaid breaks to take part in the two-hour informational picket.

Matt Hollingshead, a paramedic and treasurer for the MAHCP said the staffing crisis must be addressed.

(double-click to edit) GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON A group of allied health professionals took part in an information picket outside Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach May 11.

“We’re trying to raise awareness in the public so that the public is aware of the allied health staffing crisis that’s going on right now,” he said.

With about 6,500 members, local employees work as paramedics, lab techs and in diagnostic imaging. Elsewhere in the province the union represents mental health and addictions counsellors, respiratory therapists, midwives and over 40 other specialized professions.

Wages of these health professionals have remained frozen since 2017, the last year they had a contract. Since then the cost of living has risen over 20 percent Hollingshead said.

They are currently working after issuing a strike mandate in April, with 99 percent of members voting to walk off the job.

“We’re not on strike yet,” Hollingshead confirmed. “We’re in mediation so we’re hoping the government takes it seriously.”

With negotiations ongoing, he was hesitant to get into contract issues.

“I can’t speak specifically to issues that are at the table right now, but we’re looking for incentives to retain allied health professionals in Manitoba,” he said.

Watching members move to other places for similar jobs is becoming all too common.

Hollingshead said a paramedic in Winnipeg earns 22 to 26 percent more than their rural counterparts. Saskatchewan was also recruiting lab techs, promising an incentive of $40,000 just to move to the province.

The provincial government has said they are working on hiring more health care workers.

Earlier this month they announced they had hired 900 new health care workers, nearly halfway to their goal of 2,000 in the last five months.

But Health Minister Audrey Gordon refused to say how many employees left in that time.

GREG VANDERMEULEN THE CARILLON It was a family affair for Shay, a paramedic for 16 years, and three-year-old Lux Hawthorn as they took part in the informational picket outside the Bethesda Regional Health Centre.

The MAHCP did their own math and found that Gordon’s information that 82 new workers had been hired as allied health professionals was wrong.

“Our analysis shows that the number of ‘new hires’ for employers represented by MAHCP is actually higher, at 100,” they said in a May 5 press release. “However, in that same time period (November 2022 to March 2023, the latest turnover available), 151 employees have left the system, resulting in a net loss of 51 allied health professionals.”

Union president Jason Linklater said the numbers that matter are how many allied health professionals are on the front lines.

“The minister is being incredibly misleading by highlighting certain numbers to say they are doing something right and that the staffing crisis is being repaired,” he said. “This is clearly not the case and in fact it continues to deteriorate.”

Hollingshead said the reaction by motorists and those passing by on the sidewalk was positive.

“It’s encouraging,” he said. “It’s nice to see that the public is very supportive of healthcare workers.”

He said they have one consistent message for members of the public.

“Go and talk to your MLA,” he said. “Ask them why allied health has been without a contract for five years and why so many of our professionals are leaving to other provinces.”

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