NDP decries perceived health-care spending cap
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This article was published 24/03/2022 (365 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As Manitoba’s health-care system struggles with staffing shortages and a growing surgical backlog, the provincial government was limiting sector spending, according to a document obtained by the NDP.
The “provincial health system dashboard,” dated December 2021, which includes goals set for health regions, says the goal is to maintain 2021-22 health expenditures to within 1.4 per cent over the previous year.
“During an unprecedented global pandemic, when we were in a state of emergency and our entire society and economy was making sacrifices, I think the idea of this kind of cap was inappropriate,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Thursday in an interview.
“We’ve been through at least two experiences this fiscal year where our health-care system ran out of capacity,” he said, pointing to the third wave of COVID-19, when ICU patients had to be sent out of province, and the fourth wave, when surgeries were shelved to redeploy nurses to intensive care.
During question period Thursday, Kinew asked Premier Heather Stefanson why there was a cap on health-care spending and if it resulted in the system running out of capacity.
She didn’t answer directly, but said the Tory government has increased spending on health care by more than the NDP did when it was in power. (The PCs have been in charge since winning the April 2016 election.)
Stefanson was not made available for an interview, but a statement issued by a provincial government spokesman late Thursday said 2021 saw the largest health budget in Manitoba history, with an increase of more than $156 million.
Meantime, Kinew said now is not the time to be capping health-care spending.
“I think it’s a reasonable question to ask: did this 1.4 per cent cap factor into the fact that our health-care system ran out of capacity?” he said.
The province said it’s 2021 budget included an “historic investment” of more than $1.1 billion for COVID-19 costs, $812 million in capital funding for rural and northern health care under the clinical preventive services plan, and $50 million to address the pandemic surgical backlog.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.