A shortage in nursing positions has emergency rooms across Winnipeg buckling.
Data shows Grace Hospital has a 28-per cent vacancy rate for nursing positions, with the Health Sciences Centre sitting at 18 per cent.
President of the Manitoba Nurses Union, Darelene Jackson, told 680 CJOB these shortages were predicted for 2025, but the pandemic sped that timeline up.
According to Jackson, job retention is the big issue.
“We’re seeing younger nurses leaving the system. They come into the system and realize this isn’t what they signed up for.”
Jackson said nurses are experiencing unsustainable workloads and mandated overtime, which, combined with relatively lacklustre salaries and benefits, has them seeking employment in other provinces.
“We’re losing nurses with tons of experience and skills that could be mentoring these young new nurses,” she said.
“If we lose the experienced staff we’re not going to have anyone to do that, and if we continue to lose the new grads and lose nurses to the agencies and the private sector, we’re not going to be able to turn this ship around.”
As of now, Grace Hospital’s 40-bed medical unit has not been able to open due to the nursing shortage.
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) CEO Mike Nader said steps are being taken to address the staffing issues at Grace Hospital.
“We’re working with agency and other team members to try and pull more resources into Grace to try and stabilize them,” Nader said.
But Nader said the issues with vacancies are not just a problem facing the Grace.
At a press conference Thursday where the WRHA released data showing wait times at emergency and urgent care sites in Winnipeg continued to rise last month, Nader said vacancies are a growing problem across the health care system.
As an example, he said there is currently a 14.5-per cent vacancy rate across all roles at Winnipeg hospitals.
Nader said the WRHA hopes to work with unions and staff to help find solutions.
“I think we certainly are concerned about vacancies and what could happen. We do have an aging workforce in addition to an aging population,” he said.
“We can look at things, working with our our union partners and others around flexibility, opportunities for staff to work casual and to be able to fill roles that would meet their needs once they’ve chosen to retire or not work full time.”