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NDP promises MD house calls for seniors

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A re-elected NDP government would expand home-care services so even doctors would see elderly patients in their own homes, Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday.

The goal is to keep more seniors living in their homes longer and reduce the pressure on hospitals, Selinger said.

The NDP election pledge is the latest of several this campaign to improve front-line health care in Manitoba. The party has already promised to hire 2,000 more nurses, 200 more doctors and faster medical care to Manitobans through more QuickCare clinics and ACCESS centres.

Selinger said the new home-care program, to be introduced through the Grace, Concordia and Victoria hospitals, would create a direct link between an elderly patient and hospital services such as respiratory therapists and pharmacists without the patient having to be admitted to hospital.

The incremental cost of the program is $2.5 million. "It takes the programs to where people live," Selinger said. "It's something we've been discussing and working on for a while. The health system thinks it's a good idea. They think they can make it happen."

Selinger made the announcement in the south Winnipeg riding of St. Norbert, which has been in NDP hands since 2003. Some observers believe PC candidate Karen Velthuys has the edge in capturing the seat because the NDP took too long to nominate candidate Dave Gaudreau.

The PCs responded almost immediately to the promise, saying the NDP has no business expanding home care because they claim the current system is in disarray.

They released two recent memos between home-care staff, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union concerning the equivalent full-time (EFT) program negotiated last year by the WRHA and MGEU. The goal of the program is to create a more stable workforce and improve continuity of care by hiring permanent home-care employees.

But the Tories say the memos reveal the hiring of casual home-care workers in Winnipeg has been "paused" while the WRHA and MGEU work out kinks in the project.

"At the doors during the election, home-care clients have been telling us for weeks that the NDP had cut back their service," McFadyen said in a statement. "These WRHA documents show that hiring of home-care attendants was stopped, and now the NDP are trying to hide it until after the election."

A former home-care worker, who did not want to be identified, said while there are more people working full-time hours under EFT, they're stretched to the breaking point because they now have to deal with a heavier client load. She said before EFT, casual workers could split up the number of clients they see and spend more time with each one.

"I used to get bath assistance every single morning," home-care client Phillip Green said. "The last two or three months, I only get it Tuesday and Thursday and both days in the afternoon. The workers say they have too much other stuff to do for other people. They don't have time to give baths in the morning. They tell me their staffing isn't the greatest."

WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham said in an email the EFT changes have been successfully implemented in Fort Garry, Assiniboine South and River East with staff and clients -- for the most part -- reporting greater satisfaction with services.

MGEU president Lois Wales said the freeze on hiring casual home-care workers is necessary to minimize hiccups as the EFT project rolls out in the city, so that patients get consistent care and permanent workers get stable hours.


Tories pledge care home for Dauphin residents

PROGRESSIVE Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen promised a new personal care home in Dauphin during a campaign swing through western Manitoba on Wednesday.

McFadyen said his government would build a 40-bed personal care home at a cost of $10 million. He said a shortage of beds in the area means some people are forced to wait in hospitals for space to open.

McFadyen and NDP Leader Greg Selinger have made repeated trips to Dauphin during the election campaign.

It's considered to be a swing seat in this election.

It's represented by NDP cabinet minister Stan Struthers, but the boundaries have been changed and now includes a chunk of the former Tory stronghold of Ste. Rose. Lloyd McKinney is the PC candidate.

McFadyen also campaigned in Brandon East, which has been in NDP hands for four decades. The Tories believe incumbent Drew Caldwell is vulnerable there. The PC candidate is Mike Waddell.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2011 A4

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