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MLA Report - July 20, 2021

Failure to adequately staff northern health care a de facto cut
danielle adams column headshot

In 2018 the Pallister government closed down the obstetrics unit in Flin Flon and diverted their patients to St. Anthony’s General Hospital in The Pas. They failed to increase staffing and resources when they diverted these patients and when they were warned about low levels of staffing in the unit in the fall of 2020, they failed to do so again. Unfortunately, the situation in The Pas has reached a crisis, as they have a vacancy rate of 50 per cent. Now, thanks to the Progressive Conservative government’s failure to adequately staff the obstetrics care unit in The Pas, pregnant women are being forced to transfer to Thompson, Brandon and Winnipeg for the care they need. This is unacceptable. Pregnant women should not have to worry about being sent as far away as Winnipeg – away from their family and friends – when they are due to give birth. 

Let’s call it what it is – the PCs failure to staff up obstetrics units in the north is a de facto cut to northern health care, putting the unit at risk of also closing like Flin Flon. Transporting patients can also increase stress and feelings of isolation, which can translate into negative health effects. Diverting patients can also put stress on other units in Manitoba, especially since they haven’t received more funding or nurses to deal with the influx of patients. 

The PCs’ ongoing cuts to healthcare are making life harder for northerners. Nurses have also been working without a contract for the past four years and, with high vacancies of nurses in virtually all units in the north, the PC government is using more and more agency nurses. It’s clear the PCs don’t have a plan to increase healthcare staffing, nor do they know how to work with our current staff. It is time the PCs stop cutting northern health care and work immediately to address nursing shortages in the north so that all units, including the obstetrics unit in The Pas, can operate effectively at full capacity for Northern Manitobans to access the care they need close to home. 

My colleagues and I will continue to stand with nurses and to stand up for health care in the north and across Manitoba. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I can be contacted at Danielle.adams@yourmanitoba.ca or by calling me at 204-677-2744.