The Manitoba government is spending nearly $3 million on 17 new clinical psychologist positions in the public health system, as the province continues to face a shortage of psychologists.

“The urgency to address this issue has been increasing,” said Dr. Jo Ann Unger, president of the Manitoba Psychological Society, at a news conference Friday in a courtyard outside Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre.

Manitoba has the lowest per capita rate of psychologists in the country, Unger said. 

Though the 17 new positions will be “very significant” in helping fill that gap, “more needs to be done in terms of increasing that number across the board in the province,” Unger said.

Some clinical psychology residents have already been recruited to start in the new roles in the fall, a news release from the province says.

A portrait of a woman in front of a grey background.
Dr. Jo Ann Unger, president of the Manitoba Psychological Society, says filling psychologist positions has been a chronic issue. (Submitted by Dr. Jo Ann Unger)

The funding builds on the province’s commitment to address the shortage, Manitoba’s minister of health and community wellness, Janice Morley-Lecomte, said Friday.

In June 2022, the province committed about $850,000 for the recruitment and hiring of five psychologists. Those positions have since been filled, the news release says.

The announcement aligns with past provincial reviews that have highlighted a need to invest in the psychologist workforce, said Dr. Lesley Graff, department head of clinical health psychology at the University of Manitoba and provincial medical specialty lead of clinical health psychology at Shared Health.

“These doctors have been stretched thin in the health system,” she said. “This investment will shorten wait times, will improve patient outcomes and, in many cases, will save lives.”

The provincial reviews include the Peachy Report, a review of the health system released in 2017, and the VIRGO report, which made 125 recommendations to improve the mental health system in 2018.

Both reports pointed to a lack of psychological services in Manitoba.

“Manitobans benefit every day from the compassionate and expert care of clinical health psychologists. This new funding will greatly bolster this vital resource in our province,” Graff said.

Training psychologists

Almost all of the positions will be in Winnipeg, with many working at Health Sciences Centre and the Children’s Hospital, Graff said. The positions will also cover several clinical services, including pediatrics, youth and adult care. 

Unger said the need to train people to fill these positions cannot be understated.

“To be able … to fill the positions and match the need has been a chronic issue,” she said.

There is only one institution in the province that trains doctoral-level psychologists — the University of Manitoba.

The next step is to work on recruiting and retaining the psychologists, Unger said.

“This will involve addressing remuneration and working condition issues and, in particular, the discrepancy in compensation between the public and private sector,” she said. 

The province is spending nearly $412,000 to double the number of seats in the doctoral clinical psychology training program at the University of Manitoba, bringing it to 16, the news release says.


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