As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the province, a union that represents thousands of health care professionals is calling out the provincial government and the health minister, as they say their members continue to be neglected and ignored.
“At this point I have no other conclusion than this is willful neglect,” Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) President Bob Moroz said while speaking to the Winnipeg Sun.
“They simply can’t say they are unaware of these issues. That is impossible for them to say at this point, so the only other conclusion I can make is that they have chosen to purposely ignore this.”
Last week MAHCP, which represents approximately 6,500 allied health care workers, put out a strongly worded statement accusing both the province and Health Minister Audrey Gordon of not working to address the concerns that Moroz said he has been hearing from his members for months.
“We are heading into a fourth wave with spiking record numbers, and a health care understaffing crisis that has been years in the making,” Moroz said.
“For months we have been constantly working to get the health minister’s attention on allied health care in pandemic critical areas like labs, respiratory therapy, diagnostics, patient transport teams, rural paramedics, and countless others, to no avail.
“Our members are burnt out, and critically short staffed every single day and seeing no hint that the government even cares is making the situation much worse. This government should be ashamed; this is far past even reactive planning.
“This is deliberate neglect of the health care staffing crisis.”
Moroz said he and the members he represents are growing increasingly frustrated and angry with Gordon, who he said has made “zero effort” to respond to him and to the concerns that have been raised recently.
“There is not a day I don’t hear from a member or two or three about the sheer disappointment and feelings of being completely ignored, and it is absolutely demoralizing,” he said.
“If we even knew that there was some light at the end of the tunnel we may be able to double up our energy levels and keep plowing through, but because we are being ignored it is so hard on everyone’s morale. At this point it is just a really, really awful situation.
“We hear crickets from the minister’s office. It’s getting ridiculous actually.”
MAHCP represents more than 800 rural paramedics in Manitoba, and back in September a paramedic who works in the province’s Southern Health region, and who did not want their name published for fear of possible repercussions, told the Winnipeg Sun that paramedics across the province continue to deal with critical staff shortages and employee burnout.
“We obviously are short staffed like everyone else in healthcare right now,” an email from the paramedic read. “It’s not uncommon in our region to be down 2-3 trucks a day. In other regions such as the IERHA (Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority), it’s not uncommon to be down up to 10 trucks a day.”
Moroz was asked if he has seen anything change since that paramedic came forward with those concerns back in September.
“No, nothing has changed at all, and we have yet to hear anything from the health minister about this.”
Moroz said he is now concerned that more health care professionals will choose to leave the profession, and that it will become increasingly difficult to recruit new employees if they learn about current working conditions in Manitoba.
“It feels now like they are just going to wait until there is a full-blown crisis,” he said. “The staffing crisis is just mind boggling, and if we continue to not do anything it is only going to get worse.”
In an email, a provincial spokesperson claimed the ongoing pandemic is leading to similar staff shortages and issues across the country.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have impacts on patients, families and staff across Canada,” the spokesperson said. “The staffing challenges we face here in Manitoba, in fact, they are a challenge across the country.
“These are challenging times for all of us, and especially for health care professionals. For nearly two years this pandemic has necessitated numerous staff redeployments, changes in processes and protocols, and unusual demand on virtually every part of the health system.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun