The Manitoba government is making an investment to help increase the number of respiratory therapists working in the province; however, the Manitoba NDP says more needs to be done to fix health care in the province.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes announced that the province is providing $482,000 to increase training seats at the University of Manitoba’s respiratory therapy program by 20 per cent.

This investment will add four additional seats to the program, bringing the total number of training seats to 20. The ministers added that the funding will offset the operating costs of the four seats, and support the purchase of additional equipment.

“The announcement will also enable a much-needed renovation to the existing site to accommodate more students now, while laying the groundwork for future expansions,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that though Manitoba has seen a steady number of respiratory therapists entering the field, retirements and system-wide demand continue to be factors in staffing.

“This is a very strategic investment, which will also support the work of the diagnostic and surgical recovery task force, who have made significant progress in addressing wait times,” she said.

In a statement, Uzoma Asagwara, the NDP critic for health care, said it will be three years until these respiratory therapists are actually working in the hospital.

Asagwara added that in the meantime, without a focused retention strategy, the province will continue to lose “frustrated and overworked frontline staff.”

“Investing in training alone will not fix health care, it will also take repairing the relationship with health care workers who have been mistreated and ignored since the PCs took office,” the statement said.

According to the province, respiratory therapists provide a number of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to patients who require cardiopulmonary services. Respiratory therapists work as part of inter-professional teams in intensive care units, patient transport teams, emergency rooms and rehabilitation settings.

“Investing in the training of traditional respiratory therapists who play an important role on a health-care team is part of our ongoing effort to build our province’s health care-related human resource capacity,” Reyes said.

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