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Patients Going Without Care Due to Nursing Shortage in Manitoba First Nation

June 14, 2024 12:20 PM | The Canadian Press


By Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press

Nurse

The chief of a First Nation in northern Manitoba says its nursing station is operating at half-capacity, and as a result members are going without the care they need.

“Health care is supposed to be universal — it’s supposed to be comprehensive, accessible, affordable and properly funded,” said Chief David Monias of Pimicikamak Cree Nation.

“None of those principles are being applied.”

His community is supposed to have 13 or 14 nurses available, but most days there are only five or six, he said.

Because there’s not enough staff, those nurses are mainly handling emergency situations, while patients with diseases like diabetes and hypertension are left without necessary routine care.

And when such ailments become dire, patients are being flown to Winnipeg, because the station isn’t equipped to handle acute issues.

“We have people with brain tumours that were not diagnosed,” said Monias. “It’s not until they get sent out to Winnipeg that they find there is something wrong with them.”

When the federal government hires nurses to work in the First Nation, they don’t always stay, because their roles are meant to be transferrable to several different communities depending on need.

Some people quit altogether because they burn out due to overwork, he said.

Government data show that remote First Nations communities in Manitoba’s nursing stations were facing a 67 per cent operational vacancy in the last fiscal year.

Others in Ontario are not much much better off, according to numbers tabled in the House of Commons last month in response to an NDP MP’s written question.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said her department is trying to increase the volume of applicants in remote communities, and noted the nursing shortage is being felt countrywide.

“We kind of have to do the short-term fix with trying to lure more nurses to remote communities, but also keep focused on that longer-term capacity-building for First Nations so they have the ongoing commitment of people who want to stay in that community,” said Hajdu.

The federal government recently released job postings for nurses in remote First Nations communities in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario.

CP - The Canadian Press


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