Health care culture change the way to meet staffing challenges: Kinew

Published on Tuesday, 30 January 2024 08:57

Speaking at an event celebrating improvements being made to the Dauphin Regional Health Centre, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said it is time to start changing the culture of health care in Manitoba.

“We have to fix the culture on the front lines in our health care facilities right across Manitoba. We have to send that message that help is coming whether you’re a physician, whether you’re a nurse, whether you’re a health care professional, and that we’re serious about improving work life balance,” The premier said,

The local project, which involves development of a larger and more modern space to support cancer patients, construction of a stand alone endoscopy unit and the addition of nine new patient beds, will require as many as two dozen new health professionals to properly staff.

According to Prairie Mountain Health CEO Brian Schoonbaert, the plan is to utilize agency nurses to cover the positions, while a more permanent solution is developed.

“That’s something we have to do, not something we want to do. But we want to make sure that we’re offering the services that are needed and so we will continue to do that as long as we have to,” he said. “Definitely here in Dauphin we have issues with vacancies. However, I have to say that lately we’ve been seeing some improvements in our staffing.”

While leader of the opposition, Kinew was critical of the government when it came to the use of agency nurses across the province. And while his position has not changed, the problem can not be solved through a mandate, Kinew said, adding the number of nurses working on the frontlines in Manitoba will have to be built up gradually by focussing on retention.

Kinew said there are many reasons a nurse will go to work at an agency, such as more control over scheduling or more pay.

“They’re running away from the mistakes of the previous government mandated over time, disrespect from the employer. So these are things that we’re turning the page on. We’re serious about improving culture,” he said.

Citing the new Neepawa Training Centre and additional good work by Assiniboine Community College (ACC) in communities throughout the province to train health care professionals, Kinew said there is a comprehensive approach to training nurses under way. But simply training more nurses is not enough if you can not retain them in the public system.

“If we’re just adding those nurses to the same culture, they’re going to flee the bedside, too,” Kinew said. “So fixing the culture, retention in health care, has to be the first priority. And as we do that, as we strengthen the health human resource capacity, that’s where you’ll see agency nurse use go down. The best way for us to reduce the reliance on nursing agencies is not for us to mandate an end of agency nurse use, it’s for us to make working on the front lines and the public settings like this one so attractive that a nurse would rather choose to work here than for a nursing agency.”

In short, nursing, and other health professions need to be looked at as viable career paths and that can be achieved through partnerships with agencies such as ACC, who are already out in communities doing the heavy lifting.

“The message we want to send to young people across Manitoba is if you’re growing up in Grandview or Tootinaowaziibeeng or Dauphin or Duck Bay or Camperville, you can be a doctor, you can be a nurse, you can be an X-Ray tech, and the path is going to be very convenient and accessible for you to pursue that,” Kinew said. “So we do that, we bring everybody into the front lines, we work together on improving the culture and the working conditions. It’s not going to happen overnight, right, but if we remain committed to that path, I think that’s how we do it.”

The premier added the details of an online bridging program allowing Licensed Practical Nurses to become RNs in conjunction with ACC will be released soon.

“So that they can keep working in their existing settings,” Kinew said. “ACC, you know, they’re doing a ton of good work on this already. We’re going to collaborate with them, to support them and just make sure we can do more to bring people to the front lines.”



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Published in Dauphin Herald News