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NDP calls for rescue of Manitoba Clinic

Government dismisses call as ‘fear-mongering’

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The NDP is calling on the provincial government to help rescue Manitoba’s largest private medical clinic, which was granted creditor protection three weeks ago.

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The NDP is calling on the provincial government to help rescue Manitoba’s largest private medical clinic, which was granted creditor protection three weeks ago.

“I urge you to take swift action. It would be unacceptable should services close or be disrupted at the Manitoba Clinic,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to Premier Heather Stefanson. “A remedy needs to be found to ensure this facility continues to provide health-care services for all Manitobans.”

The Tory government responded by accusing Kinew of “fear-mongering.” A provincial spokesperson reiterated the government has reached out over the years to the Manitoba Clinic, and repeated the clinic’s previous statement that clinic operations and clinical care continue as normal during its restructuring.

The Manitoba Clinic was granted creditor protection on Nov. 30. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“As a government, we have reached out over the years and will continue to try and work with the clinic as (it faces) financial challenges,” the provincial government spokesperson stated.

“We have advised the corporation and facilitated meetings to explore opportunities to partner with a number of organizations, such as Cancer Care Manitoba, Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation and numerous other foundations, the University of Manitoba and participation in the Bannatyne Campus master planning.”

The NDP is aware family doctors and pediatricians are leaving and retiring due to the current financial situation, Kinew said. He noted the impact on the nearby Health Sciences Centre campus and Children’s Hospital if the private clinic were to close.

He said he doesn’t want to be “prescriptive” about possible solutions, but wants to see the provincial government consult with physicians and clinic staff to find ways to keep the clinic open and financially viable, as well as retain and recruit more doctors. Kinew said his own family has received medical care from the Manitoba Clinic over the years, with his children’s doctor based there until recently.

“We’re hearing a lot of concerns, a lot of uncertainty from patients about if they’re going to be able to access services there, and what are they going to do if their physician is no longer in the area or is perhaps retiring,” Kinew said.

“It doesn’t make sense that a provincial government that’s struggling to manage the existing health-care system would let this excellent centre for primary care hit such dire straits.”

The Manitoba Clinic was granted creditor protection in Manitoba’s Court of King’s Bench on Nov. 30 — a move necessary to keep the clinic from shutting down, court was told. The clinic has been losing money since 2018, when it moved into its brand-new, much larger space on Sherbrook Street. The new building has never been fully occupied, and the clinic hasn’t been able to recruit enough physicians and specialists to make up for departures.

A court-appointed monitor is supervising the clinic’s attempt to restructure its finances and operations.

Manitoba Clinic CEO Keith McConnell was not available to comment Thursday.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew (above) wrote a letter to Premier Heather Stefanson asking the provincial government to step in to help the Manitoba Clinic. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

A former patient, who asked not to be publicly identified to protect his family’s privacy, said the news the clinic is going through creditor protection represents “a sad day in Winnipeg and Manitoba.” He and his family received care at the Manitoba Clinic for decades and they’ve recommended it to others over the years.

“Our family was shocked,” he said. “We just were wondering, what in the world happened? It’s not just a doctor shortage — yes, that had an impact,” the Winnipegger added, but he said he believes the clinic lacked long-term planning to deal with a predictable exodus of retiring doctors.

The man said his children grew up receiving excellent pediatric care at the clinic, but the recent retirements of a pediatrician and family physician forced his family to scramble for months to find pediatric care for his grandchildren and other young family members.

“It’s absolutely a concern, but it’s a concern that should have been dealt with years ago,” he said.

“The impact of a lack of doctors or pediatricians: I don’t know what the word is, besides being unacceptable.”

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Kinew’s letter to Premier

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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