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Nurse recruitment 'difficult'

John Towns

Manitoba experienced its highest ever increase in nurses in 2009 with 498 new nurses working in the province, and the Interlake Regional Health Authority has been feeling the impact of the new nurses - at least in the southern part of the region.

According to Lorne Charbonneau, IRHA's vice president of health services, IRHA is still having difficulty recruiting new nurses to work in some of the more northern regions of the authority's 26,000 square kilometre area of responsibility, which encompasses the Tri-S area and runs as far north into the Interlake as Gypsumville.

"We continue to see pressure on positions in areas where it's more difficult to recruit, which is basically the more northerly part of the region, where it's harder to recruit into those facilities," said Charbonneau. "The more remote they become - or the greater distance they are from Winnipeg - the harder it becomes to recruit for those areas."

In the Tri-S area, though, Charbonneau says that several recruits have been gathered from the crop of 467 new registered nurses, 23 licensed practical nurses, and 16 nurse practitioners that boosted the number of nurses in the province to 16,624 last year.

"I had called across to the Selkirk Hospital, and in 2009 to 2010 to date, they've hired approximately 16 new graduates who've taken positions over at Selkirk," said Charbonneau. "So we're definitely seeing an increase in the south."

Recruiting nurses to work in more remote communities is something Charbonneau says the IRHA has been very conscious of, offering career and licensing advancement opportunities and attempting to recruit international nurses like the six that were recruited to come to Ashern, about two hours north of Winnipeg.

"We're trying at this point to use all the tools at our disposal to try and bring people into these communities and try to integrate them so that they're part of these communities," said Charbonneau.

According to Charbonneau, the boost in nurses is something that the IRHA - along with all the health authorities in the province - will be leaning heavily on as more and more nurses begin to retire.

"We have a significant aging demographic in our workforce as well, so we're seeing the need for graduates continuing into the future," he said. "So this is very welcome news."

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