Winnipeg’s largest hospital adding dozens more support staff, nurses to help with overcapacity

Short-staffed, heavy workloads and nurses continually stretched too thin.

It’s been a constant problem for months but now there could be help on the way, at least at one Winnipeg hospital.

Documents obtained by Global News show Health Sciences Centre is looking to add upwards of 75 to its team.

“Over the past year, emergency departments have seen record numbers of visits and critical care and medicine units have experienced high occupancy rates,” Dr. Brock Wright wrote in an internal staff memo sent earlier this week.

“We have approved and are posting new positions to support the patient volumes being experienced across adult emergency, medicine, child health and critical care.”

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HSC confirmed to Global News this includes a minimum of 53 positions for allied and support staff which includes physiotherapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy and social work.

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“As Manitoba’s provincial hospital, we have lots of sick patients and services here that only we can deliver,” said Monika Warren, acting Chief Nursing Officer. “We recognize that this has been a really challenging time for staff and we’ve been struggling with overcapacity in both our emergency department and critical care.”

Warren said the team will also be looking to hire a dozen full-time equivalent nursing positions in the emergency department.

She also said some of the tasks that nurses have been doing can be done by other augmented members of the team to free up nurses to do the work that only they can do.

“This is going to be welcome relief to augment and support staffing models,” Warren said.

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While it’s welcome news the Manitoba Nurses Union, there are still concerns.

“We are in a nursing shortage,” MNU president Darlene Jackson said. “We’ve been in a chronic nursing shortage for a long time.”

HSC has a hospital-wide nursing vacancy rate of 15 per cent, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Region. The union said it could be a challenge to fill all the voids.

“We’ve been in a chronic nursing shortage for a long time and I believe that what’s happened is nursing is just not that attractive at this moment with consolidation and workload,” Jackson said. “I think it’s important that government and employers know that we need to stabilize the system.”

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Warren is confident the hospital will be able to continue to attract staff and said they are actively recruiting and hopeful recent nursing graduates will also help fill those spots.

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