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‘There’s just not enough nurses,’ MNU president says in face of 30-hour wait times

The union representing thousands of nurses across Manitoba is sounding the alarm about what it says are uncomfortable working conditions at the Health Sciences Centre.

In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) said the wait time at the hospital ring in at over 30 hours. It added nurses are forced to move patients to unmonitored hallways to make room for critical patients.

In a statement to Global News, Shared Health said HSC’s emergency department faced a challenging weekend and had a “higher-than-average volume of high acuity patients, resulting in a temporary overcapacity of sic resuscitation beds.” It said that stable patients may temporarily be moved to a hallway and monitored by staff.

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The adult emergency department saw 164 patient visits on Saturday with 119 triaged, Shared Health said. This compared to the daily average of 96 triaged patients for the month.

It said the daily average last month was 137.8 patients.

Contributing to the wait times, MNU president Darlene Jackson told 680CJOB, is a critical nursing shortage.

“We’ve got well over 2,800 vacancies,” she said. “There’s just not enough nurses to go around. That’s the message that we’ve been talking about for at least five years. How are we going to deal with this?”

Jackson said it’s not just because of holiday staffing. “There are some areas you can staff down during the holiday time, but I can tell you that the ERs are not that area.” Besides, she said, “we are stretched so thin right now for staff, that staffing down is not even an option.

“We’re scrambling every day to staff a shift.”

Since it’s a problem that has been brewing for eight years and was surged by COVID-19, she said she’s willing to cut the two-month-old NDP government some slack. But, she said, “they need to start working on how we are going to retain nurses in this province.”

Minister of health, seniors and long term care, Uzoma Asagwara agreed, saying “retention is everything,” adding “our government has taken some pretty important steps to support health care workers and to build up capacity in our health care system. It’s going to take time though for those measures to really start to trend things in a different direction.”

The minister said an example is allowing for seven-day-a-week discharges, an idea that “came directly from the front lines.”

Asagwara said among the challenges left over by the previous government is $1.6-billion deficit. “But our government is taking an approach that continues to ensure health care, which is Manitobans’ top priority, is our top priority.” As such, the deputy premier said, “we’re reviewing decisions to this point that have gotten us to where we are in health care,” and looking at ways to strengthen the sector.

Jackson said she believes the NDP has a plan moving forward, and is encouraged to have “met with the minister of health personally through text, through phone calls several times since the election.”

She said that she is not sure the nurses who posted the X statement were being critical of the current government. “It sounded to me like a cry for help,” she said.

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