Winnipeg ER doctors pen letter to province, health authorities over senior nurses quitting

A group of Winnipeg doctors from all three of the city’s emergency rooms have written a letter to the province and to Premier Brian Pallister to express their “grave concern” over a shortage of senior emergency department nurses.

Signed by 64 doctors from the Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and Grace Hospital, the letter documents what they call a situation that is “critical, unsustainable and in need of immediate action.”

“Many senior experienced nurses in our EDs have resigned, while many others are planning to leave,” they wrote.

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“The reasons ED nurses are leaving are multifactorial, but in our view, the effects combine to make ED nurses feel undervalued, unsupported, abandoned, and frankly disrespected by their hospitals, the WRHA/Shared Health and the provincial government.”

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The doctors pointed out that ED nurses are dealing with “exceptionally high” workloads due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone who comes to the ED could have COVID, and the hospitals rely on our ED nurses to find and isolate COVID cases before admission.

“Furthermore, the ongoing meth crisis has resulted in unheralded levels of psychosis and agitation within the department, with physical and verbal aggression happening at unprecedented levels. Many of these patients have COVID as well.”

The doctors say they’re worried junior nurses without experience may miss things a senior nurse would, despite “their skill, training and enthusiasm.”

Read the letter here:

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, nurses were complaining of an “overwhelming” number of patients being seen in some hospitals.

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Nurses at St. Boniface Hospital penned an open letter in February 2020, worried about ER renovations, increasing wait times in the emergency room and areas meant to help violent patients going unused due to staffing vacancies.

Those concerns have only increased during the pandemic, according to CUPE 204, which complained last week that the health care staff it represents are being asked to perform nursing duties.

Read more: St. Boniface emergency department nurses pen open letter, call current state ‘unsustainable’

“The provincial government has made such a mess of health care that Health Care Aides are now being asked to perform nursing duties,” said CUPE 204 president Debbie Boissonneault.

The letter to the province is copied to Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, Doctors Manitoba, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, Shared Health, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the Manitoba Nurses Union.

It comes as nurses have been without a contract for more than four years, prompting talks of a strike, which nurses are voting on this week.

Global News has reached out to the province for comment.

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