The Health Sciences Centre (HSC) in Winnipeg is once again facing staffing shortages for its sexual assault nurse examiners program (SANE), but Shared Health says progress is being made to fill the gaps.
Earlier this year, the already short-staffed program was decimated by a rash of casual nurses quitting. It was bad enough that some victims were being told to come back later – and not shower in the interim – because no one was available to do examinations.
Two nurses have reportedly quit recently and the centre continues to look for a new manager. However, Dr. Manon Pelletier, chief medical officer of HSC says they’re getting closer to being able to provide 24/7 coverage.
“We’ve been working really hard over the past few months to really build up our staff to close gaps so that we have minimal to no coverage gaps as much as possible,” Pelletier says. “Morale and the culture of the team has significantly improved. We’re in much better shape than we were.”
One former member of the program, Heather Didora, says she left because she felt she didn’t receive guidance or support from her employer.
She says since leaving she does not think changes to the program have been implemented. “When you see two new hires already leaving the program, you certainly question where that work is happening and if significant changes are truly occurring.”
But Pelletier says it is not an issue.
“While we have lost two staff, one new hire, and one more senior staff, we have hired back two fully independent nurses who can start seeing patients right away.”
“We also have physicians that are covering a lot of the gaps and some NPS that have stepped up as well. So we have a very dedicated and passionate team that are really working hard to get 24 seven coverage. And we’re and we’re getting close.”
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Pelletier says the team is very dedicated to being there for patients as often as is possible and sometimes patients have to wait because the team is busy and not due to a staffing issue.
“We saw approximately 50 patients in the last month, I believe three were asked to wait,” she says. “Sometimes patients are asked to wait because we’re actually seeing another patient. So it isn’t always that someone isn’t on call.”
Meanwhile, Didora says her biggest concern is nurses fleeing the public system and moving into the private agency workforce.
“I truly believe that the proliferation of agency nurses in this province is actually a cancer in our health care system,” she says. “We need to put a stop to how many nurses we are using. If you’ve seen the stats lately on agency nurses, they are staggering the amount of money spent by employers in this province on the agency of private agency nurses.”
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