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This article was published 11/10/2017 (253 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s New Democrats took aim at Premier Brian Pallister Wednesday for personally directing health-care cuts across the province.
Wab Kinew, leader of the official Opposition, stood in question period to ask the premier if he would take responsibility for the service cuts resulting from the million-dollar savings targets the province set for each regional health authority.
Documents the NDP obtained through freedom of information requests indicate that a task force was formed earlier this year to review possible cuts and were then forwarded on to the priorities and planning committee for approval.
Pallister chairs that committee.
"(We’ve) learned that the premier, with a stroke of the pen, at the highest level, directed millions of cuts to our health-care system," Kinew said.
"The premier’s decided whether urgent-care centres would stay open or closed, whether CancerCare would eliminate positions, whether EMS stations would close."
Pallister said he’d "gladly" take responsibility for fixing the system, if the NDP took responsibility for breaking it. However, he didn't address why the political committee is needed to approve many of the cuts when experts at Shared Health Services Manitoba have already been directed to evaluate them.
Speaking after question period, Pallister told reporters he rejected the Opposition’s characterization of what he termed the "reallocation of funds" as cuts.
"We’re acting on the advice of experts to strengthen our health-care system and make it work better by allocating resources differently," he said.
A senior government official familiar with the process for approving cuts confirmed proposals were reviewed by the task force before being sent to the priorities and planning committee for approval. She said that committee then decided to send some of those proposals to Shared Health Services Manitoba, where individual regional health authority plans could be evaluated in terms of their impact across the province. When that process is complete, the proposals will go back to the committee Pallister chairs.
Pallister ignored the NDP’s renewed calls Wednesday for the government to release the KPGM report on health-care sustainability.
Just last week, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen told reporters it wouldn’t be released until at least May 31, saying he felt it would be "unhelpful" to release the 500-page report before then since it would "add confusion."
But that leaves the motivation for the cuts unclear, Kinew said.
"We’ve established the chain of command, we’ve identified who directed the decisions," he said, "but what was the underlying rationale for these cuts?"