Nearly 1 in 4 registered nursing jobs empty in western Manitoba

A growing number of registered nursing positions in western Manitoba are going unfilled — and it's costing Prairie Mountain Health financially.

Prairie Mountain Health spent $10M over a 5-month period to shore up nursing staff

A nurse in a blue uniform stands holding a clipboard, while two elderly patients sit in a waiting room.
The percentage of nursing vacancies is worsening in western Manitoba, new figures obtained through a freedom of information request show. (

A growing number of registered nursing positions in western Manitoba are going unfilled — and it's costing Prairie Mountain Health financially.

As of July of this year, 24.3 per cent of those jobs were vacant, according to documents obtained by Manitoba's Opposition NDP through a freedom of information request. At that point, the health authority had a total of 1,068 nursing positions and 259 vacancies.

That's an increase from the 22.4 per cent vacancy rate reported in January, when Prairie Mountain had 1,050 positions and 235 vacancies, according to the documents.

In the middle of 2020, Prairie Mountain's vacancy rate was still below 20 per cent. The health authority said at the time that 19 per cent of positions were empty, the documents show.

The increasing vacancy rate demonstrates a problem the Progressive Conservative government cannot ignore, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said. 

"There's a crisis in health care in the Westman [region], across the Parkland, and this premier, and their government, refuses to recognize it," Kinew said during question period at the legislature Wednesday.

Half of positions vacant in some hospitals

Some of the worst vacancy rates are in the communities of Grandview, where four of seven positions are unfilled, and Killarney, which lost two nurses in the first half of 2022, leaving 11 of 21 positions vacant. 

Grandview lost emergency department service on weekends this summer, owing to staffing shortages. 

As of July, there was also a 40 per cent vacancy rate in Roblin and Reston, 39 per cent in Dauphin's hospital and 18 per cent in Brandon.

Within individual facilities, the vacancy rate can fluctuate wildly, as some small-town facilities with a small staff can skew the average by having only a few openings, or none at all. 

To fill the gaps, Prairie Mountain spent $10 million over a period of five months (February to June 2022) to hire nurses from private agencies.

Should this trend continue, Prairie Mountain is on track to spend $24 million on agency nurses in 2022 — which is more than half of what all Manitoba health authorities spent on private nurses between April 2021 and March 2022, according to Shared Health figures.

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said in question period that the government is actively undermining public health-care by increasing relying on private help. 

But the Progressive Conservative government said it is shoring up a problem that all jurisdictions are experiencing.

"Nursing staff challenges are an issue that are not unique to Manitoba. It's being seen across the country and, sadly, globally," Health Minister Audrey Gordon said in question period. "But our government is addressing this issue."

Manitoba has spent $19.5 million to add 259 nurse training seats starting this year as part of a multi-year commitment to add close to 400 seats, the province has said.

A spokesperson with Prairie Mountain Health said the health authority is focusing on recruiting staff and has made recent presentations to fourth-year nursing students about its open positions.


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at