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Health care workers ask province to prioritize staffing, address shortage in upcoming budget

Health care workers are welcoming the provincial government’s plan to prioritize health care in its upcoming budget.

On Thursday, finance minister Adrien Sala took part in a pre-budget tradition of unboxing new shoes. However, rather than keeping the shoes for himself, Sala handed out new pairs to several health care workers at the Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg.

He told reporters his first budget aims to improve health care and make Manitoba more affordable.

“For a long time, health care workers in Manitoba haven’t been shown the respect that they deserve,” Sala said. “We know how important of a role they play in delivering health care to Manitoba and so today is about honoring them.”

In an interview with CTV News, Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said she is “very happy,” as the province continues to deal with a critical nursing shortage.

“I hope this budget is really about retention,” she said. “Because healthcare has sort of been torn apart over the last eight years. So I’m really hoping this is a budget that’s going to talk about building it, making it strong.”

Jackson said the staffing crisis must be prioritized in order to provide patient care.

“Opening beds is great and opening up surgeries etcetera is great. But if you don’t have the staff to do that, then we just can’t do it,” she said.

While the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHP) said it was glad to see health care as the focus of the upcoming budget, the organization’s president echoed Jackson’s concerns.

“(The provincial government has) to put staffing first, like they have pledged to do,” said Jason Linklater.

Linklater acknowledged the province’s work thus far in trying to address health care shortfalls and long wait times. But he said they don’t have a sufficient number of workers to operate the new equipment.

“There needs to be a comprehensive human resources plan implemented to deal with that, and that takes a significant investment,” Linklater said.

Jackson said she hopes the budget will be a step in the right direction when it comes to trying to solve the health care crisis.

“It’s not going to be fixed overnight,” she said. “There’s a lot of issues out there that this government needs to look at when it talks about health care.”

The budget will be announced on April 2. 

– With files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick

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