‘Take care of the people taking care of us’: NDP health-care platform puts focus on staffing
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The Manitoba NDP went out of its way — literally — to try and convince rural voters it’s focused on fixing health care for all Manitobans, rolling out the main planks of a health-care platform in Virden.
On Monday, in the town of some 3,100, located 280 kilometres west of the capital, NDP Leader Wab Kinew told the assembled crowd he got into politics to fix health care.
The way to do that is address the staffing shortage at the root of the crisis, he said.
“The Manitoba NDP is going to take care of the people taking care of us,” Kinew said. “That’s going to be urgently needed, especially given the nationwide health-care recruitment efforts that are under way.”
The Manitoba election is scheduled for on or before Oct. 3.
Among the promises made Monday, the NDP plan to double the $4.5-million rural physician recruitment fund cut by the Progressive Conservatives (under then-premier Brian Pallister) and to recruit and retain health-care professionals by treating them better than anywhere else, with better pay, a more respectful relationship, and leadership that listens to the front lines.
“When it comes to putting a competitive offer in front of nurses working at the bedside how about, instead of last place, we move Manitoba to first place.”–NDP leader Wab Kinew
Manitoba will have a competitive advantage, putting an end to poaching by other provinces, Kinew said.
“When it comes to putting a competitive offer in front of nurses working at the bedside how about, instead of last place, we move Manitoba to first place,” the NDP leader said.
“Health care is about the patients. It’s also about the people who deliver the care — the nurses, nurse practitioners, the lab technicians.”
Rather than “handing down marching orders from on high,” Kinew said, “we need to make sure we have health-care system leaders who have the emotional and organizational intelligence to make sure communication is a two-way street… This is a lane where Manitoba can be the leader.”
Manitoba hasn’t been out front, offering competitive wages like B.C. and Ontario, but it could set a different standard.
“If we reorient our system to be better attuned and better matched to the needs of the front lines, we could start to change the conversation in health care and, hopefully, from there the word gets out and you’ve got the next generation of doctors and nurses saying, ‘Manitoba is a great place to work and you should work here, too,’” Kinew said.
An NDP government would also pay rural EMS same as their city counterparts, and allow advanced care paramedics to work to their full scope of practice, he said.
“One of the things I’ve heard over and over from rural paramedics and nurse positions is around a competitive wage offer and one of the other issues is to ensure folks feel valued in a career with the possibility of meaningful advancement,” Kinew said.
“As we deliver better work conditions, we’ll be able to make sure we’re retaining the lab technologists and nurses and other allied health professionals so rural emergency departments can stay open.”
The NDP leader didn’t provide details on the plan for fixing health care, how much it would cost or how to pay for it.
Kinew did, however, say he knows where to find the $9 million an NDP government would spend on recruiting rural physicians.
“Right now, we’ve got that entity called Shared Health that spends $85 million a year on administrative costs,” he said.
“I am confident that we can reduce some of the duplication and inefficiencies at Shared Health and use that $9 million where it would be better spent bringing physicians back to communities like (Virden).”
“I am confident that we can reduce some of the duplication and inefficiencies at Shared Health and use that $9 million where it would be better spent bringing physicians back to communities like (Virden).”–Wab Kinew
Should it win the 2023 election, the NDP plans to expand broadband connections and invest in technology that links rural ERs to specialists in Winnipeg.
“Wouldn’t it be great if when you showed up at an ER in rural Manitoba, you could access the same quality of care as you’d get in a hospital in Winnipeg?” Kinew said. “We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the specialists, we just need the political will and investments to get it done.”
Elsewhere, the governing PCs reminded Manitobans it was an NDP government that oversaw the permanent closure of more than a dozen rural ERs — including two in the Riding Mountain electoral division, where Monday’s platform announcement was made.
“Without a world-wide pandemic or global nursing shortage, the… NDP closed 16 rural ERs and saw Grace Hospital post the worst ER wait times in the entire country,” Ron Schuler, PC caucus chairman, said in a news release.
He accused the NDP of trying to “hide from their abysmal record on rural health care” and of breaking the health-care system “during good times.”
The Tories formed government in 2016, knocking the NDP out of the role it had held since 1999.
“Cutting payroll, HR and procurement was disastrous when the PCs did it, and the fact that the NDP are proposing it doesn’t make it better.”–Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont
Meantime, the NDP just want to recycle old PC ideas that didn’t work, the province’s third major party said.
In a news release, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the incentive fund to attract rural doctors was scrapped because it took too long and was ineffective.
“Cutting payroll, HR and procurement was disastrous when the PCs did it, and the fact that the NDP are proposing it doesn’t make it better,” he said.
“Our system is already in chaos, and the last thing we need is another massive overhaul with more job losses, and that’s what the NDP is promising — cuts. We need stability and investments in people and retention.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.