In Virden, Man., a nurse working the night shift receives numerous ambulances with patients requiring mental health, cardiac, and trauma care. However, she believes that the hospital lacks sufficient staff to adequately attend to all the patients.
“There’s a lot of fear to come to work, and that’s never been the case,” the nurse, who CBC has agreed not to identify due to concerns she has over repercussions for speaking out. “It’s heavy, heavy care.”
She explained that the shortage of staff has resulted in a mix of reduced hours and temporary closure of certain emergency services in various towns in southwest Manitoba. As a result, residents from neighboring communities have no alternative but to seek assistance in Virden, which is placing a heavy burden on the staff there.
The nurse additionally mentioned that individuals have been choosing to travel about 75 kilometers west to Virden, a town with a population of just over 3,100, due to the recent lengthy waiting times at the emergency room in the city of Brandon, Manitoba. This allows them to receive treatment more quickly.
And just last month in Melita, Man. — a town of just over 1,000 people about 70 kilometres south of Virden — ER services were suspended after a long-time physician providing primary and ER care retired, according to Mayor Bill Holden.
Holden mentioned that a doctor from a nearby community, along with two nurse practitioners in Melita, are collaborating to uphold primary healthcare services.
However, without a physician available at all times, individuals requiring emergency room treatment must either call for an ambulance or travel to a larger medical facility.
Holden shared that individuals are extremely distressed. He mentioned that if healthcare services are removed from the community, people will likely seek medical assistance in Brandon, Souris, or Virden.
Prairie Mountain Health has acknowledged the retirement of a doctor who has provided dedicated service to the community for a significant period of time. In an email statement, they mentioned their collaboration with the community of Melita to create a primary care service plan that caters to the community’s requirements.
People drive to Virden: nurse
The nurse mentioned that there has been an increase in the number of patients coming to Virden from Melita due to service disruptions.
The worker mentioned that even when a facility is only open for certain hours, during an emergency, people tend to not check online for open locations. Instead, they usually go to a familiar place that is always open, which is often Virden.
“We frequently encounter this situation. Many patients travel great distances to reach our facility.”
A recent emergency department schedule, posted online by the health region for the week of Oct. 2-Oct. 8, shows ER services in Hamiota were unavailable after 8 a.m. on Oct. 3.
Souris’s ER was open 24 hours a day for the week with the exception of Oct. 4, when it closed after 8 a.m., and Oct. 5, when it didn’t open until 8 a.m.
The schedules for each week, which may differ, are displayed for the upcoming month and may be modified without prior notice.
A representative from Prairie Mountain Health stated that they carefully observe the number of patients visiting emergency departments in areas that are facing “interruptions in services” nearby, and they will offer extra assistance if required.
According to statistics, Virden’s emergency department has seen a consistent number of visits between April and August of the 2023-24 fiscal year, compared to the same period in 2022-23.
The nurse mentioned that Virden hospital heavily depends on agency nurses and requiring extra hours to ensure round-the-clock emergency room services.
“The nurse mentioned that due to the increased demands on Virden, it is possible to witness the presence of up to seven ambulances in a single night.”
She mentioned that this is resulting in burnout and worries about the standard of care.
She expressed the challenge of finding a balance between being loyal to the community and ensuring the safety of community members while also abiding by the regulations set by the licensing body. There is a fear that any major incidents occurring during their shift could have consequences for them.
Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, told host Faith Fundal on CBC Radio’s Up To Speed Wednesday, said it will hold the incoming NDP government accountable on its promises to improve health care.
Jackson stated that we are currently experiencing a health-care system in which nurses are facing unprecedented workloads. They feel that they are unable to provide the level of care that they should be giving to their patients.
The government has made a commitment to work together with nurses and ensure their active involvement. Regardless of the political party in power, it is crucial to fulfill the promises made.
Kinew proposes giving health-care workers more influence or input in decision-making processes.
Workers keeping the health-care system running right now through “heroic efforts are our number one priority,” premier-designate Wab Kinew told Marcy Markusa on CBC Radio’s Information Radio on Thursday.
Kinew recognized that there will be difficulties since other provinces are also dealing with shortages in healthcare personnel.
We must actively participate in the competition as the other provinces are also involved, and they will attract skilled individuals from Manitoba if we do not provide a competitive proposition. It is crucial that we tackle concerns such as mandatory overtime and burnout.
Kinew stated that a significant emphasis will be placed on enhancing the culture within the healthcare sector.
“To simplify the bureaucracy and to start re-investing some decision-making power in those experts who are working at the front lines. In addition to the pay and the working conditions, I think we need to send them a message that we value your expertise, we’re going to listen to you and you’re going to have a significant say in how our health-care system goes forward.”
The nurse in Virden acknowledges that the problem cannot be resolved right away, but she is optimistic about receiving temporary solutions, such as incentives for rural work.
“We are witnessing nurses retiring early, nurses leaving to work for agencies, and nurses migrating across both borders,” she stated. “This issue requires immediate attention.”