More nurses resign from sexual assault program at HSC
A day after four nurses resigned from a department at the Health Sciences Centre, more have followed suit.
On Tuesday, Shared Health confirmed four nurses working casual positions in the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program resigned. The nurses were on call for the program during their off time and hold other full-time nursing jobs.
Following that announcement, more nurses have done the same.
In an email to CTV News Winnipeg, the Manitoba Nurses Union said three more have resigned, bringing the total to seven.
"They can no longer stand by while people in positions of leadership continue to deceive the public," a spokesperson for the union said.
They noted with the reduced staffing numbers, the program went uncovered for 16 hours Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, Darlene Jackson, the president of the union, said they are losing skilled nurses.
"They are in a position where they are just done and they are not going to be working in the program anymore," she said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Shared Health told CTV News Winnipeg that two casual nurses had resigned since Tuesday, which had resulted in gaps in service coverage.
A spokesperson for Shared Health said they are working to stabilize the program for patients.
"This includes immediate work to stand up a physician coverage model, with a number of doctors expressing an interest in participating," the spokesperson said in an email. "We are also looking at opportunities to expand our casual nursing pool, including following up with nurses who have previously expressed an interest in this work as well as others who have reached out to request information about education and training opportunities."
They noted these steps are being taken until newly hired full-time nurses can start in the program following proper training.
Six nurses were hired after the province announced funding in April, 2022 for seven full-time positions.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said she met with Shared Health leadership Tuesday about the resignations.
"More work needs to be done. There is always room for continuous improvement and to be doing things better," said Gordon.
"What we want to be doing is to listen to the individuals who have said they are resigning from the position, hear what we can do as system leaders better and take those steps."
She noted what is happening right now does not align with what the government had planned when the program was created.
"We will leave no stone left unturned in ensuring that this program is fully staffed and that the services Manitobans need and deserve at the Forensic Nurse Examiner Program at HSC and throughout the province as well."
NDP Health Critic Uzoma Asagwara is calling on Gordon to resign as health minister, saying the nurses in this program have been unsupported by the PC government.
Asagwara said they spoke with one of the nurses who resigned, noting they are devastated by the decision.
"These nurses love the work that they do. They are compassionate people who put the needs of their patients and their families first. They have been abandoned by this government and by this premier and minister of health," said Asagwara. "It is a heartbreaking decision for them to make to resign, but they have made it clear that it is a result of their voices going unheard, the mental and emotional toll of not being able to provide survivors the care that they need and deserve."
Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said fixing this program should be a top priority for the government. He doesn't believe the problem will be solved by Gordon's resignation but noted action is needed.
"The reason (the nurses) are quitting or planning to quit is because they have been treated as disposable," said Lamont. "The people who are really hurt in the end are the patients."
Shared Health said it expects the recently hired full-time nurses will complete their training by the summer, which will minimize the gaps in care and waits in the program.
- With files from CTV News' Danton Unger and Michelle Gerwing
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