There was extra pedestrian traffic on Thursday at Bethesda Regional Health Centre as members of the Manitoba Allied Health Care Professionals staged an information picket for a couple of hours.
During unpaid time off, workers took to the sidewalk to make the public aware that they have been working without a contract for five years, while short-staffed, and their wages frozen.
Paramedic Matt Hollingshead was part of the group outside Bethesda.
“We’re looking to gain as much public support as possible, so that people are aware of the Allied Health staffing crisis that's going on,” he says. “Speaking as an Allied Health Professional myself, we're tired of seeing people leave to other jurisdictions and other provinces. And we're hoping that by being out here and getting as many eyeballs on us as possible, the government can step up and take action, and give us a contract that been waiting five years for.”
Hollingshead has been a paramedic for eight years and says having wages frozen and working without a contract makes it harder to do the job.
“And that’s compounded by the staffing crisis,” he adds. “It's frustrating when we can't get to calls on time compared to when we used to be able to get there much quicker.”
MAHCP members work as rural paramedics and emergency dispatch; diagnostic imaging and laboratory technologists; mental health and addictions counsellors, respiratory therapists, midwives and over 40 other specialized professions that are essential to delivering health care for Manitobans.
In April, they voted 99% in favour of a strike mandate, noting that the wages of 6,500 health care professionals have been frozen since 2017 while the cost of living has risen over 20%.
Hollingshead says it is increasingly difficult for members of MAHCP.
“But we continue to show up to work every day, even if our government's not here to support us,” he says. “We're still here to support Manitobans and our patients.”
Charlene Gardiner of Steinbach is a former nurse and current patient at Bethesda. When she saw the Allied Health Care workers outside, she felt compelled to join them.
“When I was a nurse, we had to go on strike, we were without a contract for six years,” Gardiner says. “It’s important to be recognized and paid what you’re worth. These people are all essential services.”
Gardiner was a nurse for 23 years and is now experiencing health care as a patient. She credits Allied Health Professionals for being able to improve her quality of life during the past couple of months.
Hollingshead encourages people who want to support them to contact their local M.L.A. "and tell them to take action. Tell them that you're frustrated watching health care workers be kicked to the curb."