When it comes to home care attendants, the Prairie Mountain Health region has a 25 per cent vacancy rate, surpassed only by the Southern Health-Santé Sud region at 27 per cent.
The region has 466 home care attendant and home support worker positions, with 119 vacant, as of Sept. 17.
Those figures come as a result of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) requests by the New Democratic Party of Manitoba.
At the province’s daily COVID-19 update Wednesday, Lanette Siragusa — provincial lead for health system integration and quality and chief nursing officer with Shared Health — explained that home care services are being adjusted in Winnipeg.
"Staff who work in the community within home care have stepped up over the weekend to provide assistance in the long-term care sector. So home care levels, as a result, will be adjusted to the similar service levels that we had over the springtime," she said.
"Any and all clients who require life-sustaining services or anyone who’s in need of urgent services through home care will continue to receive those services. The effort is part of our ongoing planning and prioritization to ensure that our health-care workers are deployed to the areas of greatest need."
Siragusa was only able to speak generally on the matter, when asked what efforts were being made to fill those vacancies. She said as part of the province’s COVID-19 response, staff are looking at ways to recruit, train and deploy more people within the community and long-term care sector.
"We would have to defer that question specifically to Prairie Mountain Health leadership, but more info coming hopefully soon," she said.
Prairie Mountain Health was not able to answer questions from The Brandon Sun by deadline.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said seniors care is super-important to the NDP, with the health and well-being of seniors across Manitoba a top priority.
"The pandemic has only served to underline why that’s so important. Because we’ve seen what can happen in long-term care, and we’ve seen what can happen to seniors in the community if we don’t do our best to give them quality health care," he said.
The NDP’s health critic, Uzoma Asagwara, raised the matter during question period Wednesday.
"She laid out the case, which is that home care is important for seniors, for people with disabilities, or other people who may be needing assistance," Kinew said.
"This information is in black and white. It shows that one-quarter of the positions are empty. The government’s response was a typical sort of question-period response where they don’t really give us any answers."
Nevertheless, Kinew wanted to draw attention to the figures because he believes Manitobans need to know about the issue.
"For a lot of folks across Westman, the southwest, southern Manitoba, there’s a major issue here. If you’re somebody who needs home care to help give you your medications to stay healthy, or to help you around the house, or to provide all those forms of assistance that we know that seniors and other folks rely on, then this is a big concern," he said.
"It means they’re waiting longer. And it means the person who is going to show up is going to be rushed, and they’re not going to have the time to devote to you to give you the care that you need."
As solutions, Kinew suggested turning to new Canadians, advertising and recruiting, as well as ensuring attendants are paid well, with benefits, and are properly equipped with protective items during COVID-19.
"I think we’ve got to be looking at immigration as part of the solution, which I think has worked well in Brandon in other sectors," Kinew said.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.