WRHA cuts nurses from trauma, burn, IV units at Health Sciences Centre

More than a dozen nurses specializing in intravenous insertion and burn and trauma care at the Health Sciences Centre will be out of jobs this fall, says the union that represents nurses in Manitoba.

HSC intravenous insertion team of about 15 nurses gets axe as part of broad cost-saving measures

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is eliminating the intravenous insertion team at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg as part of far-reaching cost-saving cuts mandated by the Manitoba government.

More than a dozen nurses specializing in intravenous insertion and burn and trauma care at the Health Sciences Centre will be out of jobs this fall, says the union that represents nurses in Manitoba.

"I am very concerned about the impact these changes are going to have on the people of Manitoba and I think we have to speak out," Sandi Mowat, president of the Manitoba Nurses' Union, told CBC News Monday.

Mowat said two clinical nurse specialists — one each from the burn and trauma units at HSC — informed her the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has cut their positions, effective this fall. 

Likewise, the Winnipeg hospital's vascular access team, which includes about 15 nurses who monitor and perform intravenous insertions, have also been axed.

"Those were difficult decisions to make," said Lori Lamont, vice-president of interprofessional practice with the WRHA. Lamont added the way the services are currently delivered "wasn't essential to providing that service."

Apart from a few spots on the intravenous team Lamont says will be retained for special situations, the remaining tasks that used to be performed by trauma, burn and IV nurses will be picked up by front-line nursing staff.

Not all of the nurses have yet received official notice their positions are being terminated, Mowat said.

Broad health-care cuts

The cuts are part of a swath of recent cost-saving measures being pushed through Manitoba's health-care system. The Pallister government, which campaigned on a promise to not cut front-line services, has mandated the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority find $83 million in savings in its 2017-18 budget.

Lamont didn't provide a dollar amount for how much the cuts in question will save the WRHA, but did say eliminating the intravenous team amounts to saving the equivalent of about nine average nurse position salaries.

With all of the talk about finding efficiencies and pinching pennies in health care, Mowat says moving forward the province and WRHA might benefit from reaching out more to the people whose jobs are on the chopping block.

"That has never happened throughout this whole process," Mowat said.

Sandi Mowat says the province and WRHA management are failing to communicate with front-line nurses and tap into their knowledge about what changes could be made to save money. (CBC)

"I hear from nurses all the time who say they know of ways that things could be cut: you know, excessive paperwork, excessive ordering of supplies. There's a couple of nurses that might think maybe the bureaucracy is a little bit heavy as well."

Mowat said apart from dressing wounds and other day-to-day patient care, the burn and trauma nurses also monitor current research in the field and help develop new standards of care for patients at HSC.

Many hospitals don't have the luxury of a vascular access team and rely on front-line nurses to do intravenous insertions. Mowat said she understands that's possible at HSC, but it's going to mean more time and resources are devoted to training.

"For many years they have had a vascular access team at the Health Sciences Centre, so now what will have to happen is all the nurses that work there will have to be educated in establishing IVs."

Part of the job

The WRHA has already mapped out a plan to re-educate HSC nurses on IV insertion ahead of the fall when the vascular team is no more, Lamont said.

HSC is the only remaining hospital in Winnipeg with an "IV team," which Lamont says didn't service all areas of the hospital.

People will continue to get good IV care.- Lori Lamont

Ultimately inserting and keeping an eye on IVs is part of the job for all registered nurses, Lamont said.

"We believe this is really a move that takes the Health Sciences Centre to where others are in terms of the provision of that care," Lamont said.

"People will continue to get good IV care."

Nurses 'stretched thin'

Mowat fears dissolving the vascular access team will shift the burden onto front-line nurses at HSC and increase their workload.

"The front-line nurses are already stretched really thin," Mowat said.

"They talk to me about their workload all the time, so now we've got the added workload of intravenous, and I would argue the burn nurses are losing a valuable resource and so are the trauma nurses."

The nurses were disappointed to hear they'd soon be losing their jobs, Mowat says, but they will continue to do what they do best in the face of all the uncertainty.

"Nurses will always step up and give the best quality care and they will go above and beyond to do that," said Mowat.

"We keep hearing from both government and the WRHA that they are looking at ways of streamlining care and improving care, and yet they're cutting these valuable positions.

"We have evidence to support that they do enhance patients care., so I think people do need to hear that message."

Lamont said Manitobans will still receive quality care.

"I don't think people need to be concerned at all," she said.

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC. He has won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade, and a 2023 Prairie region award for an audio documentary about a Chinese-Canadian father passing down his love for hockey to the next generation of Asian Canadians.

With files from Robin Summerfield, Laurie Hoogstraten