Manitoba

Analytics will reduce overtime, optimize staffing for health workers: province

Manitoba's health officials say analytics could be the answer to scheduling staff more appropriately and reducing overtime hours.

$8-million IT systems would use trends to study future needs of health-care system

Ronan Segrave, chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Centre, expects new technology to help the hospital better prepare its staffing levels based on historical information. (Fernand Detillieux/CBC)

Manitoba's health officials say analytics will help avoid overtime hours by appropriately placing employees where they are needed. 

The province is investing $8 million in big data technologies to use past performance and trends to optimize staffing levels within the health-care system.

Health Sciences Centre currently uses real-time data to study the flow of patients, but statistics aren't being employed to the extent they could be, says Ronan Segrave, chief operating officer.

"The piece that we're missing … is that predictive analytics, to be able to use the masses of real time data we're seeing everyday … put it through algorithms and actually be able to predict patient volumes, acuity, numbers coming through our hospital at particular dates and times throughout the year."

Technology would forecast demand

They say the system has effectively reduced overtime elsewhere, including in Vancouver and Saskatoon.

At a cost of $8 million, the Manitoba government is investing in a resource optimization system to assess required staffing numbers and a workforce management system to better adapt to sick time and overtime management. 

"These are investments we can't afford not to make, because they will drive that system efficiency," said Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

Pleased, but doesn't address root causes: Nurses Union

While the president of the Manitoba Nurses' Union says she's pleased with the steps the government is taking to address the "excessive level" of overtime nurses have been facing, the new measures won't address the root causes of excessive overtime, which, according to Darlene Jackson, are driven by vacancies and inadequate staffing levels. 

"Overtime has increased dramatically at most Winnipeg hospitals since Phase I was implemented in October 2017," said Jackson. "We need to see a plan on retaining and recruiting more nurses. This new technology won't address the nursing shortage."

Jackson said the government does not have a strong record on health care changes and existing problems have been made worse. 

"It's important that cost reductions don't come at the expense of safe patient care," she said, adding the MNU will monitor the changes as they occur.

The new information technology systems will be rolled out across the city, as well as Selkirk Mental Health Centre and Churchill Health Centre, over the next two years.

HSC expects to employ the resource optimization system in the next couple of months.

It will be used by members of a command centre who already use technology to co-ordinate scheduling and other day-to-day matters.

The Winnipeg health region currently uses eight different scheduling systems to program its days. 

St. Boniface Hospital still uses pen and paper for scheduling purposes, Friesen said. The manual process will eventually be phased out.

The province expects to save $8 million annually by purchasing the two information technology systems.

Staffing levels at Manitoba's health-care facility has been a major concern for labour organizations. The Manitoba Nurses Union has complained that overtime rates have risen considerably.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is covering the Manitoba provincial election for CBC Manitoba. He previously has reported on provincial politics and breaking news in Winnipeg, Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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