Home > News & Events > 2024 Allied Health Week: It’s time to implement tangible, meaningful changes for allied health in Manitoba

2024 Allied Health Week: It’s time to implement tangible, meaningful changes for allied health in Manitoba

By Jason Linklater, MAHCP President

More than 8,000 allied health professionals work in our province’s public health-care system, and they’re essential to patient care. Manitoba has work to do to make sure they see our province as the best place to provide their specialized services.

Allied health professionals are in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, long-term care and community settings, working in lockstep with physicians and nurses, and Manitobans depend on the services they provide.

For example, the laboratory tests, MRI and CT scans, X-rays and other critical tests diagnostic technologists perform are essential to assessment and surgical procedures, influencing 80% of clinical decisions.

When we lose one of these specialized professionals, they are not easy to replace.

Rising allied health vacancies are doing real damage, with existing staff dealing with increasing workloads and logging a crushing volume of overtime to fill in the gaping holes. Manitoba is at risk of losing more of them because other jurisdictions are offering more competitive wages and benefits and incentives, and less bruising and demoralizing working conditions.

MAHCP hears daily from our members that patients and health-care workers are at risk because the staffing situation is not improving.

According to a member’s powerful letter to Manitoba Health Minister Asagwara, “Shared Health is not posting open positions, allowing sites to continually work short. All of health care is being pushed to do more with less, less resources and less staff. We are all burnt out, and sadly a lot of health-care professionals have had enough and are walking away.”

Allied health vacancy rates have increased dramatically in recent years, causing rural paramedic stations to sit empty, rural emergency rooms to shut down, and forcing Manitoba patients to wait longer to access care, often travelling far from home. Here are just some of examples we’ve uncovered:

  • At Thompson General Hospital, provider of lab services for the province’s largest health region, medical laboratory technologists have dwindled from 12 to two. According to reports, Thompson ER patients were recently left without access to critical lab tests as a result. “……my last stretch of working 24 hours, I got to a point where I couldn’t function anymore. I had one hour of sleep in 48 hours. This is not sustainable,” said a Thompson lab technologist recently.
  • In Brandon, at the Manitoba Transport Coordination Centre (MTCC), dispatchers who coordinate rural and northern Manitoba emergency medical response and patient transport, can be operating on any given shift with just two of seven dispatchers required. They are getting to 911 calls as fast as they can, but Manitobans are waiting longer on hold than they should and waiting longer for the ambulance to arrive.
  • Rural paramedics are currently experiencing a 40% vacancy rate. An MAHCP paramedic in the Interlake-Eastern region shared that the Saturday of the Easter long weekend saw just seven of 21 ambulances on the road because of staffing vacancies.
  • Manitoba’s median MRI wait times are now topping 30 weeks at some sites.
  • Mammography technologists at CancerCare Manitoba’s BreastCheck are dealing with an estimated 40% vacancy rate, as Manitobans wait six months or more for breast cancer screening.

Where are we going to find more specialized allied health professionals? Last month we learned that Red River Polytechnic received only 32 applicants for 40 training seats in medical laboratory sciences. That program used to have a wait list. The same is happening with respiratory therapy at the University of Manitoba and other critical training programs that supply the pipeline to fill the vacancies that already exist, let alone to replace the many professionals who could burn out or retire soon.

We acknowledge that culture change takes time, and that the Manitoba government has pledged overdue investments in health-care staffing. But allied health professionals and patients can’t wait any longer. Change and investment are needed now. Our recommendations:

  • Get to work on cultural transformation, workload management, competitive contracts and incentives so we can retain experienced professionals and attract more of them.
  • Post staffing vacancies and change hiring practices to make sure those positions are filled quickly. Increase baseline staffing where needed to meet increased patient volume and acuity.
  • Expand allied health recruitment efforts and training programs to ensure Manitoba can meet the need for specialized health-care professionals, now and into the future.

Finally, and most importantly, value your staff. Recognize and remunerate existing allied health properly. We cannot afford to lose any more of these specialized health-care professionals. Tomorrow is the kick off for 2024 Allied Health Week.

This week – and every week — let’s show our allied health professionals they matter.


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