Paramedics will be supplementing emergency department staffing at Manitoba’s largest hospital, a direct result of an ongoing nursing shortage.

On Monday Dr. Shawn Young, COO of Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, confirmed that this may be the way it works going forward inside the hospital.

“They’re an excellent resource to be able to help staff and support the emergency work,” said Young. “Working in triage, working in resuscitation, they have the skill sets and the tools to be able to provide that service exceptionally well.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said using paramedics to supplement the HSC emergency room, which is the provincial hospital, is concerning.

“This was created by the cuts and closures that we have seen from the PCs over the past few years in healthcare,” Kinew told CTV News. “And it just seems like Manitobans are constantly being asking to accept these stop-gap, temporary measures as the new normal.”

A Shared Health spokesperson told CTV News while no paramedics were available to work in HSC's emergency department, the practice of using paramedics to support ER staffing has been used at multiple sites.

Young said this has already been routine practice in other facilities in Manitoba, including at Grace Hospital, but this past weekend was the first time off-duty paramedics were asked to work at the HSC emergency department.

Even before the pandemic, Young said HSC Winnipeg was looking at a partnership with paramedics so the hospital wasn’t so heavily dependent on the nursing resources.

“We have had a nursing shortage for quite some time. This is because of the nursing shortage,” he said.

Young did not know how frequently paramedics will be working in the HSC emergency department and added this is the opportunity to make a partnership between paramedics happen more permanently.

“I don’t know what those schedules will look like. The weekends are definitely an opportunity for us because that is when some of the trauma is at its worst and some of our needs are at its greatest,” Young said.

Ryan Woiden, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union Local 911, is concerned about paramedic burnout, and spreading the profession too thin inside and outside of Winnipeg.

"There are only so many paramedics in the province and you have places they all have to be," Woiden said. "Offering another place for them to work doesn't exactly… it certainly leaves me slightly concerned when we haven't heard what the plan is."

Young said this would not impact paramedic services, as the paramedics would not be on duty as a paramedic at the same time they would be working in the ER. The Shared Health spokesperson said paramedics have a professional obligation to ensure they are fit for work, meaning they cannot accept additional shifts they believe may impact their jobs.