45 doctors at Winnipeg hospital plead with province to address staffing issues in letter to health minister

Doctors at Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital are sounding the alarm over concerns for patient safety and are begging the province to address critical staffing issues.

A letter addressed to Health Minister Audrey Gordon, which was obtained by CBC, was signed by 45 doctors at the Grace who express concerns about a lack of oversight for patients in the medicine in-patient ward at that hospital after hours.

Those roughly 100 patients could rapidly decline at any moment, warns the letter, dated Thursday.

“We cannot emphasize enough that patient safety remains severely compromised at the Grace Hospital because of the current inadequate response and commitment to properly fund a position,” the letter says.

“This is below the standard of medical care that Manitobans deserve.”

The doctors say physicians who helped provide overnight coverage for patients were removed from the medicine in-patient ward at Grace in the spring of 2022 for a number of reasons.

“Subsequently, there has been an increase in baseline safety concerns with a rise in critical incident reports,” the letter says.

A temporary model was put into place this winter where a hospitalist — a physician who cares for in-patients — would help provide overnight coverage, but this model of care is set to end at the end of this month, and only served to provide a response to patients who already deteriorated, the doctors said.

The physicians submitted briefing notes to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to address the current staffing model and approve a new, more complete one “to help augment our ability to provide safe overnight patient care,” the letter said.

They requested urgent funding for an overnight hospitalist to meet the standard of care that’s already available in other wards across the health authority, including at Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital, according to the letter.

The proposal was approved, but retracted days later, it alleges.

CBC News has requested a response from the health authority.

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara called the letter concerning.

“The doctors are outlining a pretty scary situation at the Grace Hospital, an increase in critical incidents and an inability to provide the care that Manitobans depend on because they simply don’t have the support needed to do so,” they said following question period at the Manitoba legislature.

Gordon is scheduled to speak to reporters later on Friday afternoon.

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