The RM of Portage la Prairie is sharing concerns with Allied Health when it comes to staffing shortages. Last Friday, picketers were out at the Portage la Prairie District General Hospital spreading the word. 

RM of Portage la Prairie Ward 3 councillor Ryan Kontzie says there is more at stake than just staffing loss in Portage. He notes all rural municipalities are feeling the sting.

"On Friday, we saw some hospital staff, paramedics, lab, and X-ray staff," continues Kontzie. "They're voicing their concerns of the shortage of staff that they're currently dealing with for quite a while on all levels of health care at the Portage Hospital. Staff is very, very overrun and burnt out, to say the least, from the COVID years, I guess I'll call it. And now, we're finding a lot of staff that are seeking employment elsewhere for two reasons. It seems like to us, one of them is to find a less stressful job taking a lesser position. This is to relieve some stress off themselves. And, two, is for wages."

He notes the incentives to work in Winnipeg concerning EMS, for example, is close to 30 per cent better pay than in the rural municipalities of Manitoba. 

"When you're a younger person, with the cost of everything going on nowadays, 30 per cent more for the same job to go there and take that employment seems like a no-brainer to me. I know there are other provinces that are doing different incentives," says Kontzie. "I know Saskatchewan is really seeking all types of health care professionals and they're giving incentives anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 just to come, move there, and work for them."

Kontzie says it's hard to keep staff in our area when other provinces and cities are paying more wages. He explains we need to be at least even with other areas to keep people here.

"We need more staff," adds Kontzie. "I would say that's a huge problem. Obviously, the city and the RM are working with the province on building this new hospital and helping out with it. We're glad to have it. It's going to be great for the community and the surrounding areas, but we need to keep the staff that we have now. We also need more staff to keep it running with more beds and more facility there."

He explains people graduate from high school and require training which costs money. Kontzie says they need a job provided to them when they graduate so they can start making money.

He says they're discussing this at the council table.

"We have members that sit on the Hospital Foundation board, which is a charitable foundation that helps supply extras to the hospital and surrounding facilities, long-term care facilities, as well," notes Kontzie. "Most of the calls that we receive are about the EMS and fire. There are some days when there is one ambulance to almost a 100-mile-square radius because they're down in staffing. So, when our residents phone for help, whether it's heart attacks, strokes, or they got injured on the job out on the farm, it's a very long wait time to begin with, if we're fully staffed. And when there's minimal staff, it can get extremely dangerous. That's why we're concerned about it."

He says they're trying to help out as best they can by lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding.

"There are some transfer payments there to help with healthcare, as well," adds Kontzie. "So, we lobby the AMM that they can lobby on our behalf. We're trying to do as much as we can to push this further up the ladder to get more attention."

Kontzie notes he can't say enough good things about the staff in Portage.

"We certainly recognize they're getting burnt out and tired, and there are days when they could work 24 hours a day on 36-hour shifts. It's very tiring and exhausting for our local residents, as well. We just want to try and do as much as we can to get more funding and more staffing in place, and whatever we can do to help out. The RM is certainly glad to lobby and talk to whomever we need to make that happen for them."