Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew expressed concerns about a shortage of nurses at St. Boniface Hospital, calling for an about face on health care from the province.

“Patient care might suffer simply because of this government’s obsession with cutting healthcare costs,” said Kinew during a press conference Monday.

Meantime, the Pallister government is saying numbers from the Official Opposition don’t tell the whole story.

Documents obtained by the Manitoba NDP show the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) is being hit the hardest.

“In August 2018 NICU nurses wrote a letter to the Minister of Health saying chronic understaffing is putting patients in danger and forcing nurses to work 16-hour mandatory overtime shifts. According to documents there was a 19 per cent vacancy rate in the department at the time, but this shot up to a 30 per cent vacancy rate in January 2019,” said the Manitoba NDP in a release.

Kinew says the numbers show the Pallister government needs to reverse cuts and emergency room closures.

“These numbers make it clear the Pallister government is refusing to listen to front line nurses and patients,” said Kinew.

According to the Manitoba NDP, other departments struggling with high vacancy rates include:

-Cardiac science intensive care (26 per cent);

-Occupational therapy (41 per cent)

-Woman and Child Resource Team (34 per cent)

-Clinical Support Resource Team (36 per cent)

-Critical Care Resource Team (40 per cent)

The province’s health minister says those numbers paint an incomplete picture.

“When adjusted to include the new positions that we just created, removed from data set, there is no evidence that the vacancies are going up at St. Boniface or any other hospital,” said Cameron Friesen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has echoed the province’s stance in a statement, which says in part:

“In November of 2018, we announced additional provincial funding to create new NICU positions. When we add new positions to any clinical area, it does inflate the vacancy rate for a short period of time while the recruitment and hiring processes occur to fill those new positions.”

The WRHA says it has experienced a surge of activity, particularly the demand for hospital admission in the past few weeks forcing them to add additional contingency beds.

“While vacancy rates within health care always fluctuate for a variety of reasons, vacancy rates within the WRHA are within the range we have seen over the past few years,” said a WRHA spokesperson.