Vacancy rates for some western Manitoba health-care positions exceed 15%
Percentage of unfilled jobs at Prairie Mountain Health rising in some positions, documents show
The number of nursing, home-care aide and health-care aide positions sitting vacant in western Manitoba exceeds 15 per cent, a new document shows.
The Manitoba New Democrats pounced during question period Thursday on vacancy numbers the party obtained from Prairie Mountain Health through freedom of information legislation.
The statistics show that 22 per cent of licensed practical nurse positions were open as of August, as well 19 per cent of registered nursing positions and 16 per cent of nurse practitioners jobs.
Within individual facilities, the vacancy rates for each position can fluctuate wildly, as some small-town facilities with few employees can skew the average by having some vacancies, or none at all.
Still, the NDP called the overall vacancy rates worrisome.
Leader Wab Kinew noted the Dauphin Health Centre had a vacancy rate among registered nurses of 31 per cent, which equates to 32 job openings as of August, while the community's personal care home has 60 per cent of positions, or three of five jobs, empty.
A 'clear trend,' NDP alleges
"This is not an aberration, this is not an outlier," Kinew told question period. "This is a clear trend, documented in the evidence, of this government cutting health-care services that results in fewer people working at the bedside and helping our seniors."
Premier Brian Pallister said in response that Manitoba has 1,100 more nurses working now than a year ago.
He said his government has trimmed top-heavy management and re-directed funding toward the front-lines.
"The reality is that we are achieving better results," Pallister said.
Staffing shortages at rural Manitoba health-care facilities have been a persistent problem, resulting in the closures of emergency rooms ranging from Vita to Erickson and Shoal Lake, dating back years. More recently, Roblin's ER was shut down, but health officials have stressed the closure isn't permanent.
The NDP alleged on Thursday, however, that the staff crunch is getting worse.
The party highlighted that the vacancy rate for clinical (allied) positions, which includes lab technicians, hit 25 per cent in August, which is 10 per cent higher than the spring of 2019.
As well, more health care aide positions (16 per cent) are vacant as of August than a year ago.
In one example, Brandon's hospital — the region's largest — went from a nearly 8 per cent vacancy rate in health-care aides in March 2019 (13 vacancies) to 14 per cent this August (25 vacancies).
Across the health authority, average vacancy rates were lower in other positions, including registered psychiatric nurses (six per cent) and pharmacy (14 per cent).
Prairie Mountain Health chief executive officer Penny Gilson said in a statement Friday the health authority is cognizant of its vacancy rates and working extremely hard to fill these positions.
"We know it's challenging to recruit to rural areas," she said, noting that communities, economic development departments and chambers of commerce groups shoulder the recruitment demands as well.
"Often, you are recruiting to fill a specific position in health care, and the person's spouse/significant other is also looking for a job."
Health Minister Cameron Friesen previously said that eight per cent is considered a normal vacancy rate for nurses.