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Health minister Selby apologizes for comments about dead babies

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Health Minister Erin Selby

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Health Minister Erin Selby apologized in the provincial legislature today for comments she made two weeks ago about the deaths of 12 infants during heart surgery in 1994.

"I felt the pain that my words caused," Selby told MLAs. "Things get passionate in here. We debate and sometimes don’t always choose our words as carefully."

The heat’s been on Selby since she referred to the deaths during an exchange with Progressive Conservative health critic Myrna Driedger in a committee meeting on health spending and policy.

The topics included the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) air-ambulance helicopter and critical-incident reviews in the health-care system.

In defending her government, Selby told Driedger the NDP brought in critical-incident legislation to address and learn from medical mistakes.

"We know how things were done when they were in office, Mr. Chair. They ignored problems," Selby said, referring to the previous PC government. "They swept them under the rug. And it is hard for me to imagine, but they allowed 12 babies to die and still didn't take into consideration what happened to learn from such devastation that those families went through."

The Tories and family members of one of the dead children demanded Monday that Selby apologize for politicizing the deaths.

"Mr. Speaker, upon reflection and hearing the words of the family, I can see that my words did hurt them," Selby said in the House. "We must always remember that the words that we choose in this House and when we speak have impact. And those words can hurt.

"It was never my intention for these families to relive this tragedy. And I am sorry."

Fellow NDP MLAS then gave Selby a standing ovation after her words.

"It was never my intention to hurt that family or any family," she added. "We do have to remember that those words have impact not only in this room, but outside this room, and we need to be aware of that, and I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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