Manitoba invests $123 million to recruit, retain nurses

'More supports are on the way as the Health Human Resource Action Plan is rolled out'

Manitoba invests $123 million to recruit, retain nurses

Manitoba is setting aside $123 million to boost its healthcare capacities and help out workers who have been struggling with their workload.

The investment will be used in nine initiatives to retain, recruit and support nurses.

“Nurses are an incredibly valued member of the health-care workforce who provide critical services under sometimes extraordinary pressures,” says Audrey Gordon, minister of health. “These incentives improve nurse staffing where there are high demands and needs in the health-care system such as weekend coverage. 

“We are already beginning to see positive results from these strategic investments and I want to assure all of Manitoba’s health-care providers that more supports are on the way as the Health Human Resource Action Plan is rolled out.”

Recently, British Columbia started covering application and assessment fees for internationally educated nurses (IENs), saving them a total cost of more than $3,700. In September last year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also announced it is exempting from the residency requirements foreign-trained physicians who work in a fee-for-service model with public health authorities.

Specific initiatives funded by Manitoba’s investment include:

  • a new hourly premium for nurses who work weekend hours
  • a new annual payment for nurses who hold the equivalent of a full-time position
  • reimbursing the costs of nurses’ professional licensing fees
  • an annual incentive for nurses who are eligible to retire but choose to remain in the workforce for up to an additional two years
  • a new refer-a-nurse program for current nurses who refer a prospective nurse to a Manitoba employer
  • a provincial float pool to support nurse staffing needs across the province
  • a travel nurse incentive which will provide an additional hourly premium for nurses who travel to work in remote locations
  • a wellness incentive, which adds additional funds to the health spending accounts of full and part-time nurses to help to cover the costs of eligible expenses.

These are all part of the Health Human Resource Action Plan, which Manitoba launched in November 2022. The government also made a commitment to add 2,000 health-care providers, invest $200 million to retain, train and recruit health-care staff across the province and eliminate mandated overtime.

Since then, the provincial government has hired more than 330 new health-care providers, including nurses, health-care aides, physicians and other staff who provide bedside care.

‘Necessary, positive step’

The Manitoba Nurses Union welcomed the funding.

“We view this announcement as a very necessary and positive step in addressing the significant recruitment and retention issues for Manitoba’s nurses,” said Darlene Jackson, president of the union. “We will always work diligently and share our ideas and approaches to get our health-care system back to where it needs to be. Nurses are problem solvers and we are anxious to develop and see the implementation of further effective measures for all nurses to solve the many challenges of our nursing human resource crisis.”

Mike Nader, president and CEO at Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, also feels the investment comes at a good time, according to a CTV News report.

"The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is experiencing higher staff vacancies as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as is the case across Canada," he says. "We are beginning to see positive uptake on these new incentives. We thank the Manitoba government for this significant investment in support of the recruitment and retention of nurses in Winnipeg."

Nurses in Canada are overworked, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). When it came to working extra, 236,000 or 21 per cent of the overall health-care workforce has put it in extra work regularly — but not all of it is being compensated: they averaged 8.2 hours per week of paid overtime and 5.8 hours per week of unpaid overtime, it says.

And 75 per cent of nurses intend to leave the industry in the next 12 months, according to another study from Blu Ivy Group.

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