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Photo of a nurse beside a hospital bedRegion news
Region spends
$3.2 million to add
more NICU nurses

Additional needed to keep pace with
demand at city's two largest hospitals
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Wave
Nov/Dec 2018

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has announced $3.2 million in funding for additional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nursing resources to address the sustained increase in patient volumes seen at both Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg and St. Boniface Hospital over the past year.

This funding allocation, announced Nov. 7, will be used to hire approximately 30 new NICU-trained nurses, resulting in an increase of six nurses on staff 24/7, creating capacity for an additional 11 beds for babies and reducing the reliance on short-term staffing measures like overtime.

"Our government has recognized the increasing pressure on the NICU, and we are responding to the concerns raised by nurses with substantial measures that will make a real difference," said Cameron Friesen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living. "We are ensuring both units are staffed appropriately at all times so that babies with significant health requirements continue to get the safe, timely and high-quality care they need."

Although staffing ratios in the NICU have been consistent with accepted national standards, the WRHA has seen a steady increase in the demand for NICU beds, including a 12 per cent increase since April of this year. This has created sustained pressure for both the HSC and St. Boniface Hospital NICU. In addition to actively working to fill nursing vacancies, the sites have been able to reach out to staff with previous experience in NICU or pediatric care to support the units during this time. These measures, combined with new nurses starting on the unit, have resulted in decreases in NICU overtime from September to October at both sites.

"Our NICU nurses have demonstrated outstanding professionalism and a commitment to providing excellent patient care during an admittedly challenging time," said Real Cloutier, President and CEO of the WRHA. "This additional staffing will support our collaborative efforts already underway in the Region to address the increase in the number of babies needing NICU support."

Jobs are expected to be posted shortly, said Cloutier. The amount of training new hires receive will depend on the experience they have, with increasing responsibility as time goes on.

While these measures are intended to address the current operational needs of our NICU, clinical leaders from the WRHA will be working with Shared Health as they develop a long term clinical and preventive services plan for Manitoba.

Additional work is underway to finalize plans to address the need for increased support in obstetrical resources. Those plans will be released in the coming weeks.