The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) will once again be conducting a Viewpoints Research survey of nurses across Canada on the impact of the critical nursing shortage.

This survey was set to start running January 15 until February 5, which means that some of you, our MNU members, may have already been contacted.

We are strongly encouraging any MNU members contacted by Viewpoints to participate in this important survey. Building on past research, these results will help CFNU advocate for better working conditions and patient care.

Viewpoints Research will be contacting members via email, and members have been randomly selected to participate. There is also the possibility of an extension, so you may receive an email after February 5. Please remember to check your spam/trash folders, just in case the email has ended up there.

CFNU will also be targeting provinces and territories outside of their membership with static links to participate in the survey, to get a fuller picture of the critical staffing shortage. These responses will be collected and used to inform key decision makers across this country.

Related to the staffing shortages issue is the use of private agency nurses in our public healthcare system.

Many members have heard me speak out on this issue, and I would like to clarify why I am taking this position.

Most importantly, I want all nurses in Manitoba to know that I have no issue with the nurses who work for agencies. In fact, we know that a great number of nurses working for agencies came from the public sector and had very good reasons for making the decision to leave.

My issue is with the agencies themselves who are making huge profits at the expense of our public healthcare.

We must remember that the funds agencies receive for providing healthcare workers comes out of the public healthcare system’s funding and is regularly in the millions of dollars for the health regions. Media have reported extensively on this.

Continued dwindling of publicly employed nurses means even more reliance and dependence on corporate agency interests, who in turn can dictate increased rates, and greater profit, if the public system has lost capacity to staff and therefore has no choice but to rely more and more on agency.

We know there is a keen interest amongst private corporations to gain entry into the health system, as it is perceived as a guaranteed and stable profit centre, as everyone, sooner or later, requires healthcare. It is a fundamental necessity to quality of life.

If these dollars spent on agency were poured back into our public healthcare system by way of incentives for EVERY nurse in this province, we would have no trouble recruiting and retaining nurses.

Many nurses who work for agencies say they love the flexible scheduling aspect and there is no reason why our Employers in the public healthcare system cannot provide the same opportunity for flexible scheduling for public system nurses.

Also, I’ve heard from nurses across the province that it is difficult to maintain continuity of care when there is a constant change in personnel: we know that some healthcare facilities in the province, such as in the North, are consistently at 50% vacancy and have to rely on external support as has always been the case. In some instances such as this, agency nurses are necessary.

With this new government, we have an opportunity to fix the damage that has been done to our public healthcare system since 2016.

The goal is to have a truly publicly funded, universal healthcare system where every person who presents for care receives that regardless of economic status.