Manitoba spent $3.9M in 1 year on private nurses to fill shortages in Winnipeg, Opposition NDP says
Manitoba’s Opposition NDP is calling on the governing Tories to spend more money on the public health-care system so private agencies are not necessary to fill the province’s health-care gaps.
On Friday, Health critic Uzoma Asagwara released data from a freedom of information request that shows the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spent more than $3.9 million on fees to private nursing agencies to beef up staffing in major hospitals from September 2021 to November 2022.
“To be clear, that is just in Winnipeg alone,” Asagwara told reporters at the base of the Manitoba legislative building’s grand staircase.
Spending was highest at Seven Oaks Hospital at $1.2 million for the year, while St. Boniface Hospital and the Grace Hospital each spent around $810,000. The data did not include expenses for the Health Sciences Centre.
Agency spend starting to fall: WRHA
When looking at fiscal years, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority appears on track to spend less money on agency nurses in the 2022-23 fiscal year than the year prior.
The year-to-date spend in the current fiscal year is $3,277,681, compared to more than $4.1 million in 2021-22.
The WRHA credited the province’s $200 million health-care human resources plan, announced last November, with reducing the need for agency nurses. The plan includes financial incentives for nurses who choose to work full-time and those who work weekends.
Asagwara, however, has criticized that plan as being short on details and target dates and being “too little, too late.”
The priority in repairing the system must be on re-examining “the overall package of what can be provided to nurses,” the NDP’s health critic said.
That includes offering a healthy work-life balance so people can go home at the end of their shifts, be with their families, and have time to recover from the busy work day, they said.
As well, financially, nurses need to feel like they are valued.
“And that’s been absent under this government for many years.”
The Progressive Conservative government should be reversing the damage it has done to health care but instead “they are making things worse by spending millions of dollars on private for-profit agency nurses,” Asagwara said.
“It shouldn’t be this hard to recruit and to retain nurses in our public health-care system. It’s clear the PCs are not making the appropriate efforts to address this issue, this crisis, and quite frankly, it’s clear they just don’t know how to fix the problem they’ve created.”
Manitoba’s health-care system has experienced high turnover rates since the pandemic started, driven in large part by exhausted nurses facing 14- to 16-hour shifts.
Asagwara said they would provide an update next week on the $200 million recruitment and retention plan.
“There will be a lot of exciting news to share,” they said.
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