January 28, 2019

Nursing staff to increase at Winnipeg obstetrics units

Winnipeg’s two obstetrical units are receiving an additional $2.3 million annually to hire more baseline staff, to deal with an increase in the number of babies being born on the units.

The two units, at St. Boniface Hospital and Health Sciences Centre, accommodated 11,710 deliveries between them in the 2017/18 fiscal year. This represents an 8.6% increase over the 10,783 deliveries that occurred there in 2010/11. By next year (2019-20), if volumes continue to increase as they have been over recent years, the deliveries will rise to more than 12,000, which would represent a roughly 13% increase over a 10-year period.

“Additional nursing staff are needed to handle the steady increase in the number of births that obstetrics units at Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital are seeing,” said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen. “The addition of these new nursing positions will ensure both units are staffed appropriately at all times, both now and into the future, so newborns and their mothers continue to receive the high-quality care they require.”

“These units accommodate mothers not only from Winnipeg, but from rural and northern Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwestern Ontario as well, and it’s important that we keep up with the demand as our regional population grows,” said Krista Williams, chief health operations officer with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. “The funding being announced today will not only increase the baseline staffing available to the units on a 24/7 basis, but will also allow us to take more innovative approaches to care, such as the creation of an elective C-section team for St. Boniface Hospital.”

The new funding will allow the St. Boniface obstetrics unit to schedule an additional two nurses 24/7, bringing their round-the-clock staffing from 12 to 14, plus a charge nurse. At Health Sciences Centre, the new funding will allow for one additional nurse around the clock, bringing that unit’s 24/7 staffing from 14 to 15, plus a charge nurse. This represents an additional 8.4 full-time equivalent nursing positions at St. Boniface; and 4.2 at HSC.

The funding will also be used to create an elective caesarean section team at St. Boniface, which will operate two days a week, representing an additional 1.6 full-time equivalent positions. Such a team already exists at HSC.

We anticipate that these measures will reduce delays for planned inductions and elective caesarean sections; increase our ability to move patients more quickly into labour-and-delivery beds when they are ready to give birth; and reduce diversions between the two hospitals.

“Obstetrics is a science where patient volumes can be very unpredictable. When a woman is ready to go into labour, she comes to the unit, regardless of what time it is or how many other mothers are already there, and we have to be prepared for that,” said Mary-Jane Seager, an obstetrician and medical director of the WRHA’s women’s health program. “This funding should assist us with our ability to better plan for and meet those demands more predictably.”

The funding increase takes effect immediately. The units expect to start offering additional shifts to existing part-time staff soon, and the new positions will be posted shortly.