900 health-care workers hired in the last 6 months, the Manitoba government says

The Manitoba government says it has recruited nearly 900 new health-care workers in the last six months, but one of the unions that represents those workers says that number doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the staffing situation.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon says since November 2022, the province has hired 259 nurses, 73 physicians, 438 health-care aids, 82 allied health-care providers, and 32 physician assistants and clinical assistants, according to a Thursday news release.

The numbers are “substantial,” Gordon said in the news release, while acknowledging more work needs to be done.

Last November, the province announced a $200-million plan to add 2,000 health-care professionals to the public system, through staff retention, training more professionals and recruiting new workers through immigration and graduation.

A provincial spokesperson says 350 nurses and health-care aids who were given letters of intent during a recruitment mission to the Philippines earlier this year are not included in the province’s latest tally. The province expects the first of those workers to arrive in Manitoba this summer.

But Jason Linklater, the president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, said the province’s numbers don’t take into account the number of allied health-care workers who have left Manitoba because of poor working conditions, nor do they provide context as to where the newly recruited allied health-care workers recruited will work.

“We do not know what professions these were hired into, if they are casual or part-time. And so without that context, the numbers are relatively meaningless,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Resignations could outpace recruiting: Doctors Manitoba

Doctors Manitoba says adding more health-care workers to the system is always a good move, but a major concern is what the advocacy group for physicians described as a “mass medical resignation” in the province.

The number of physicians leaving the profession in Manitoba is projected to surpass the number of new recruits, a Doctors Manitoba spokesperson said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“And that’s on top of the record-high physician shortage Manitoba already had,” the spokesperson said.

The province’s $200-million health-care human resources plan includes solutions that could improve physician retention, but the best parts of the action plan have yet to be implemented six months after they were announced, Doctors Manitoba said.

To date, the province says 12 initiatives from its plan have been put into place, including adding premiums for working weekends, wellness bonuses and extended-hours premiums for doctors.

But Linklater noted that only two of the 12 measures were geared toward allied health-care workers.

Shannon McAteer, the health care coordinator with the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said none are geared toward health-care aids.

She also said while 438 new health-care aids are a good start, that doesn’t even address half of the vacancies.

As of late last year, there were more than a thousand vacancies in the support sector, which is primarily health-care aids, she said.

“It’s a perpetual and continual problem, the vacancies, and so they need to make the positions more attractive in order to be able to recruit and retain new staff.”

McAteer also noted it’s not clear whether the health-care aids are full time or part time.

Gordon says the province is working with post-secondary institutions in Manitoba to expand access to programs that will help address workforce capacity long-term.

CBC News also requested comment from the Manitoba Nurses Union.

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