Manitoba

HSC makes plea to staff for additional nurses to manage growing number of patients

The Health Sciences Centre is calling for nurses to work in the adult emergency and adult medicine departments to manage a growing number of patients and to prep for flu season.

2nd email sent out to HSC staff backtracks on urgency of situation

The HSC has put out a call for nurses to volunteer to pick up extra shifts in the adult emergency and medicine departments. (CBC News)

Health Sciences Centre is calling for extra nurses to work in the hospital's adult emergency and adult medicine departments to manage a growing number of patients and to prepare for flu season.

CBC obtained a copy of an email sent by the HSC's chief nursing officer to staff on Wednesday morning.

"We have an urgent need for registered nurses (RNs) with experience and/or training in an adult medicine setting, and RNs or licensed practical nurses in adult emergency," wrote Kathy Doerksen, chief nursing officer for HSC.

"Patient flow challenges have been impacting demands in HSC Winnipeg's adult emergency department, and have increased the number of adults requiring admission to medicine units."

After CBC asked about the email, a second email was sent out to staff Wednesday afternoon, with the word 'urgent' removed from the body and subject line.

"This is a call for HSC Winnipeg nurses with experience in adult medicine or emergency, but working elsewhere at the site, to indicate interest in picking up additional shifts as flu season approaches and HSC continues to face higher volumes in adult ED and medicine," wrote Doerksen in the second email. 

"We would like to develop a pool of registered nurses (RNs) with experience and/or training in an adult medicine setting, and RNs or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in adult emergency who may be interested in picking up additional shifts in these units as patient flow challenges impact demands in HSC Winnipeg's adult emergency department (ED), and have increased the number of adults requiring admission to medicine units.

A spokesperson for Shared Health Services said it was "a mistake" that the original email was marked urgent.

"HSC's adult ED and medicine units have been busy. And in preparation for flu season and any corresponding increases in demand, the intent was to proactively develop a pool of experienced nurses that could pick up additional shifts to ensure consistent patient flow through these units," wrote the spokesperson. 

'Situation in ERs across Winnipeg is urgent:' Union

But the union representing nurses says those on the front lines would disagree that a mistake was made. 

"I am hearing from nurses almost on a daily basis that the situation in ERs across Winnipeg is urgent," said MNU president Darlene Jackson. 

"They are short staffed, they're working with crushing workloads, and they're drowning."

According to data in July provided by the Manitoba Nurses Union, HSC had 106 of 131 total nursing positions filled in its adult emergency department, with a vacancy rate of 19 per cent. 

"A 19 per cent vacancy rate is higher than we'd like to see, but I think that the problem is that we have many junior nurses hired into these departments who may or may not be up to speed yet," said Jackson. 

She said doing the course work, learning how to triage and gaining experience takes time. 

"Just because you fill the position doesn't mean you hit the ground running."

As of July, HSC had a 12 per cent vacancy rate in its medicine department, with 302 of 344 positions filled. 

"We've been hearing from nurses especially in the ER and throughout the hospitals in Winnipeg that ... the amount of overtime is staggering," said Jackson.

"We're in a staffing shortage, a critical staffing shortage at this point."

With files from Kristin Annable

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