PMHR Nursing Shortages Cost Manitoba $24 Million in For-Profit Health Care

August 4, 2021

Treaty 2 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Brandon MB—The Manitoba NDP has learned the PC government spent $24 million on for-profit, private agencynurses to address chronic shortages within the Prairie Mountain Health region from January 2019 to May 2021.

“The PCs cuts just don’t make sense; not from a health care perspective or when it comes to spending smart,” said Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “The province pays a premium to have these nurses come in on short notice, spending millions more than if they just hired permanentnurses to adequately staff our health centres. That’s the opposite of government efficiency—plus it means worse care for Westman families and fewer job opportunitiesin places like Brandon. The PCs need to stop gutting health care, stop fighting with nurses and instead work on training and recruiting more nurses in Westman.”

Documents obtained by the Manitoba NDP through Freedom of Information Requests show the PCs spent $24 million on private agency nurses to fill gaps at facilities across the Prairie Regional Health Centre, including Brandon, from January 2019 to May 2021.

The cost pulls resources away from other services to make up for the PC’s cuts to health care staff. While the PCs spent millions in private staff, they fought with Manitoba nursesover unfair wage freezes, denied them quality PPEandforcedthemto work mandatory overtime to make up for PC cuts. Their relationship with nurses has deteriorated so much that nurses organized a strike vote in the middle of the pandemic.

“Nurses are leaving the profession altogether because of how this government has treated them. In places like Brandon, facilities are sort staffed and have been running on fumes throughout the pandemic,” said Kinew. “Hiring more nurses, and ensuring they stay in the systemby treating them with respect, must be one of the first priorities as we come out of this pandemic.”