In this extensive piece, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett interviewed MNU President Darlene Jackson about the recent surgical backlog announcement by Health Minister Audrey Gordon and the task force appointed to deal with it.

Here is an excerpt, followed by the link to the full column:

In February, representatives of the Manitoba Nurses Union met with Dr. Peter MacDonald, the chair of the province’s surgical and diagnostic recovery task force to discuss strategies to alleviate an enormous backlog of procedures. The timing could not have been better.

The task force had only been created in December and had made little progress. And it only made sense that the task force brainstorm with the MNU; a serious and apparently growing shortage of nurses had the potential to cripple any catch-up plan.

According to MNU President Darlene Jackson, the meeting was generally positive and many different ideas were discussed. However, in the nearly two months since that one and only meeting, Jackson said it doesn’t appear that anyone was really listening to the nurses.

Last week, the task force announced it is forging ahead with a plan to ramp up priority elective surgeries during the summer months. Although neither MacDonald nor Health Minister Audrey Gordon explained the full implications of that plan, the MNU confirmed later that government officials have warned nurses the summer surge in surgical slates would likely require the cancellation of planned vacations.

Jackson said she and MNU officials had cautioned MacDonald in February about any plan that required nurses to cancel vacations. After more than two years on the front line of the pandemic, during which time vacations were limited, nurses desperately need a chance to rest, Jackson said.

The MNU proposed several ideas to alleviate the need to cancel vacations: increased use of operating room technicians or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to reduce the number of registered nurses needed for each procedure; the extension of existing OR shifts into evening hours rather than scheduling entirely new surgical slates.

Unfortunately, none of those ideas found their way into the task force update. As it stands now, Jackson said the task force plan could very well make a bad nurses shortage even worse.

"We told them to be careful because for a lot of our nurses, retirement is a real option," Jackson said. "If they started cancelling vacations, we’re afraid that a lot of nurses will just say, ‘That’s it. We’re done.’"

A request to speak to MacDonald to get his impression of the meeting with the MNU was, not surprisingly, ignored. As a result, Manitobans can only speculate about why the task force — and the government that created it — continue to plod ahead with its plan while ignoring the input of groups outside government.

All we know for sure is that ignoring the input of everyone and anyone outside government is standard operating practice for Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government.

Full story available at