Shovels are in the ground for an expansion to the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, but work is ongoing to figure out how to staff the expanded space with the province looking overseas for help.
The expansion will add 30 acute care inpatient beds and three emergency department treatment spaces. The province said these new beds will allow an increased number of inpatients and a higher volume of surgical and endoscopy patients.
When asked Wednesday how the expanded space will be staffed, Marion Ellis, the CEO of the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, said work is ongoing.
“We are in communication with communities about what we can do,” Ellis said.
She said the region hasn’t decided on what the nursing model of care will be at this point, but is working with Shared Health on this.
Ellis said a trip to the Philippines is planned in November with one of the region’s ‘experienced leaders’ who she said is good at hiring. In a statement to CTV News, Shared Health said health system leads are reviewing ‘various avenues’ for recruiting healthcare professionals – including those living overseas.
“As part of this work, early exploratory planning on the immigration and credentialing process for foreign workers is underway,” the statement reads. “Given the robust training programs in the Philippines and the strong familial connections people in that country share with Manitoba’s Filipino community, that may be an early area of focus.”
Ellis said while the hospital’s permanent positions are filled on the medicine and surgery floors, there is some strain in the emergency department.
“But we haven’t cut back services in Selkirk in our emergency department,” she said.
Ellis said the expansion will take roughly two years to complete, giving the region time to hire.
“We have some runway. I know the shovel is in the ground today, but we have some opportunity to recruit,” she said.
The lack of details on a staffing plan has Bob Moroz, the president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, concerned.
“The bottom line is beds don’t care for people – people care for people,” he told CTV News. “Beds are fine, additions are fine, but if we don’t have the people to work those beds, they are going to sit idle.”
Moroz said he wants to see a plan for the entire rural and northern areas of the province.
“Our concern is that this is flashy, it is splashy, but it really gives no indication that there is any plan for rural healthcare in the province, especially in the Interlake region.”
The province said construction crews are getting the land ready for the addition, and the renovations on the emergency department are expected to begin in the fall.
Premier Heather Stefanson was among the officials at the site Wednesday to announce the expansion. She said the project will cost at least $31.6 million.
This expansion announcement comes on the same day dozens of rural doctors met with local and provincial leaders in Portage la Prairie for a rural healthcare summit.
“Our concern is, and why we all met today, is who are you going to staff the expanded area with,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, president of Doctors Manitoba. “It is all about human resources and bringing conversation back to recruitment and retention of physicians.”
Bradshaw said the Selkirk expansion and the rural healthcare summit were needed. She said they came up with 50 to 70 ideas they hope will come out in the next few weeks.
-with files from CTV News’ Michelle Gerwing