The President of the Manitoba Nurses Union has mixed feelings towards this week's announcement that additional nurses will be coming to Manitoba from the Philippines. 

Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced on Tuesday that 309 health-care professionals will be coming to our province, following a recent recruitment mission to the Philippines. The list includes registered nurses, licensed practical nurse equivalents and health-care aides. 

Individuals are expected to begin arriving in Manitoba as early as late this summer, with arrivals increasing in fall.

Manitoba Nurses Union President Darlene Jackson says she was disappointed to hear the timeline for their arrival, noting the original message that came from government was that the individuals would be moving into positions in July already.

"Clearly that's not going to happen," she says. "We're a little bit behind the eight-ball on that."

However, Jackson says she is grateful that help is on the way. 

"I'm grateful that we're going to be getting some help for our nurses who are desperate for assistance," she says. 

Jackson says judging from what she has heard, it sounds like about 225 of the health-care professionals that are coming are nurses. She says that is just a drop in the bucket as far as meeting the need that exists today. According to Gordon, Manitoba has more than 2,800 nursing position vacancies. 

Jackson says the 225 nurses are a good start. However, she notes it is her understanding that there is not another recruitment mission happening. Last November, the provincial government implemented the Health Human Resource Action Plan to retain, train and recruit 2,000 health-care staff across our province. 

One concern of Jackson's is that the nurses coming to Manitoba be well supported when they arrive. She says these newcomers will need to become familiar with everything about Canada, including our culture and our weather. Jackson is hopeful that a Filipino community will already exist wherever these newcomers are stationed. 

"I really hope that when they take into consideration where these nurses are going, they take into consideration that there's a community to welcome them," adds Jackson. 

Not only that, but Jackson says she is also hopeful that these nurses have the support they need in our health facilities. 

"I have young nurses, new nurses that were trained in Canada and in Manitoba telling me every day that they are absolutely bagging for support and mentoring when they come into the profession, they are telling me they feel like they've been pushed off the end of the pier," adds Jackson.

Jackson says if we cannot support our homegrown nurses, what makes us think we can support these newcomers? 

"That's totally unfair, that's absolutely a recipe for them to fail if they are not supported," she says. "And we want them to be successful."

Meanwhile, Shared Health has provided more specific details as to where the new health professionals will be stationed. Forty-four are expected to work in Southern Health. However, not one of those 44 is currently expected in Steinbach.

"It's a shame Steinbach is not on that list because I know that you have many, many areas of your facilities in the Southern region that are short-staffed or working below baseline," says Jackson. 

According to Jackson, there is not a corner of this province where the critical nursing shortage is not being felt. She says the use of private agency nurses in Manitoba has skyrocketed over the last two years. 

"The cost to the taxpayers is staggering. Millions and millions and millions of dollars going to these private agencies to staff our facilities because we don't have enough nurses in the public health system," she says. "It doesn't matter where you go in this province, we are in a nursing shortage and Southern Health and Steinbach is no different than anywhere else, you are definitely in a nursing shortage there."