More than $56M spent on agency nurses in Manitoba: Shared Health

Spending on help from private health-care agencies in Manitoba continues to be elevated.

Numbers from Shared Health show the province spent more than $56 million on agency nurses in the first three quarters of the 2023-24 fiscal year.

It said Prairie Mountain Health Regional Health Authority was the top spender at almost $21 million, nearly double the next highest spender, the Northern Regional Health Authority.

“Those numbers are absolutely staggering when you look at them and think of how much could be done if that money was poured back into the public system as a way to retain nurses,” said Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses’ Union (MNU).

At the same time, she said the numbers are not surprising, noting the number of agency hours has been increasing every year.

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Jackson said there is an allure for nurses to leave hospitals for agency work beyond the better pay.

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“For a lot of nurses I’ve talked to, they are working for agency because they have much more work-life balance, because you get to choose when you work and where you work,” she said. “If you work overtime, it’s at your choice.”

She said in tandem with agency hours, overtime hours are also elevated.

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“The amount of overtime nurses are working is, by our numbers, well above one million this year.”

The union president said she would like to see more efforts made by the Manitoba government in the way of a retention plan, adding she’s not really sure what its plan is.

“I would encourage them to develop a really, really good plan on how to retain nurses in Manitoba, and start using it immediately because we really cannot afford to lose nurses out of the system,” she said.

Previously, Premier Wab Kinew and Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said they would personally place job offers in the hands of students graduating from health-care programs.

The provincial government has also continually said it will work to change the culture of health care.

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Shared Health said it and other health system employers “are committed to reducing the province’s level of reliance on agency nurses.”

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