Signed by 37 nurses working in the hemodialysis unit at St. Boniface Hospital, a letter given to media voices concerns about clinical duties during the night shift.

The letter distributed Tuesday by the Opposition NDP said the nurses are required to be on call for a unit they do not work on, the peritoneal dialysis unit.

“To perform peritoneal dialysis clinical duties while on call at night for which we have little to no formal training or experience and feel this is a VERY UNSAFE situation for patients and for ourselves,” the letter reads.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s website outlines the differences between the two types of dialysis. Hemodialysis is done in hospital where blood is filtered through an artificial kidney machine. Peritoneal dialysis is done by a patient in their home and uses a machine where the blood is cleaned inside the body.

The nurses’ letter said the hemo and peritoneal units are physically separated and are staffed with different people, but the hemodialysis nurses are the only ones who go on call.

They added that with more changes coming to the health care system, they are concerned even more peritoneal patients will be coming to St. Boniface when faced with an emergency.

“That will increase the likelihood of us having to deal with PD issues and patients who are not our patients. Along with the extra stream of patients that could put strain on the on call nurse with limited to no experience,” the letter went on to say. “We are asking for this situation to be dealt with fairly, equitably and immediately. We wish to protect both our patients and our nursing licence from any possible harm.”

The St. Boniface Hospital responded to the letter with a written statement sent to CTV News Tuesday evening.

It reads in part: “St. Boniface Hospital Leadership is aware of concerns raised by our nurses working in the Hemodialysis Unit and we have been actively working on solutions.”

The hospital says the Manitoba Nurses’ Union is involved, and the nurses have been asked to come to forums on the issue. The hospital’s statement also said hemodialysis nurses have covered on-call shifts for both kinds of dialysis for a decade.

“With the upcoming changes in our health system, we will continue to monitor the increase in patients needing dialysis at St. Boniface Hospital. Ensuring our care teams can respond to the possible increase in demand for dialysis is a priority. This also involves ensuring adequate training and regular experience with this form of treatment.”

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said in a statement, “MNU is aware of the concerns raised by hemodialysis nurses at St. Boniface Hospital, and we have been working with the employer to ensure all nurses on-call for peritoneal dialysis have the appropriate skills and training to provide safe, quality patient care. We will continue to monitor the situation.”