Allied Health staffing is experiencing a crisis. That's from Matt Hollingshead, treasurer for Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals. He was outside the Portage District General Hospital Friday with several other picketers spreading the word about the crisis.

"Everyone you see is either on their day off or their off time," says Hollingshead. "We're having an information picket. We're here to raise awareness of the Allied Health staffing crisis that's been ongoing and the fact that we've been five years without a collective agreement. As Allied Health professionals, we don't want to see the crisis get any worse, so that's why we're out here today."

He outlines details about the situation they're grappling with. 

"Because we haven't had a contract in five years, we're seeing many Allied Health professionals leave to other jurisdictions," notes Hollingshead. "For example, paramedics in rural Manitoba. Many of them are going to work in Winnipeg, where they're making on average 22 to 26 per cent more. We're seeing a lot of our lab techs and diagnostic imaging techs move to other jurisdictions like Saskatchewan, where they're paid higher and also receiving incentives in some cases. For example, lab techs earning getting a $40,000 incentive as a bonus to move to Saskatchewan and work there."

Hollingshead adds they're seeing extraordinary vacancy rates that they cannot fill. 

"They're just not able to fill the positions in the hospitals or the ambulances," notes Hollingshead. "We're seeing vacancy rates for EMS, specifically, up to 30 to 40 per cent in some areas. I'm a paramedic by trade. I've worked as a paramedic for the last eight years and it's frustrating to see. I didn't ever think we'd get to this point with the staffing crisis where you see ambulance wait times are just through the roof. Speaking from personal experience, it's frustrating when people call 911 and you just can't get there in time. And that's just an all-too-common problem now."

The portage location saw lab techs and diagnostic imaging paramedics on the picket line, but through MAHCP as a whole, they have 6500 members that have been waiting five years for a contract.

"That's everyone from physiotherapists, perfusionists, mental health professionals, and lab and diagnostic imaging."