The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba pledged Sunday to improve health care for women if re-elected to government, announcing a number of women’s health initiatives with a price tag of $3.4 million.
"We know how hard the PC team has worked to improve health care in our province, and we know that women’s health needs are very different from men’s in very significant ways," Progressive Conservative candidate and Riel MLA Rochelle Squires said during a news conference at the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy in Grant Park Shopping Centre Sunday.
"That’s why we need a health-care system that offers services and programs that are tailored towards women."
The campaign pledge includes five initiatives. The first would authorize pharmacists to directly prescribe medication to patients who have common urinary tract infections, without requiring a visit to the doctor. Pharmacist Pawandeep Sidhu, president of Pharmacists Manitoba, said that option is already available in four other provinces and would help keep UTI patients out of emergency rooms and urgent care centres.
"We see it a lot on the weekends, evenings, when a woman comes in and she says, ‘You know what, I have a urinary tract infection, I’m quite familiar with the symptoms,’" Sidhu explained on the sidelines of Sunday’s news conference.
"They will be able to talk to a pharmacist, and if deemed appropriate, the pharmacist can prescribe an antibiotic for them."
The Tories also promised to invest in mental health and trauma counselling.
"This includes helping more girls and women who have been exploited and/or experienced childhood sexual abuse," PC Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard said.
Separately, Guillemard said, a re-elected PC government would boost treatment for Manitobans who have eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
"This will include investing in additional in-patient beds, establishing a medically supported feeding clinic and improving programming and out-patient care."
The PC women’s health plan would also create a four-year bachelor of midwifery program at the University of Manitoba, which would launch in 2020 with six seats. Three of the seats would be set aside for Indigenous and northern students. Finally, the PCs said they would take steps to improve breast cancer care by better disseminating information on breast density among patients who receive mammograms.
"These investments show our deep and unwavering commitment to addressing the unique health needs of women," Guillemard said.
The NDP questioned the PCs’ commitment to women’s health in a press release that focused on the health-care record of party leader and premier Brian Pallister.
"Brian Pallister has shown a complete disregard for the health of women and girls. His cuts have targeted women’s health care and have put women’s health at risk," NDP St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine said.
"He’s closed clinics and cut services while denying women across Manitoba access to medicine essential to reproductive health. Why should women in Manitoba believe Pallister now?"
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont likewise lambasted Progressive Conservative health care policies to date, saying the party’s promises are hard to believe.
"The fact that the PCs are patting themselves on the back for their health care changes while putting tremendous stress on front-line workers who are experiencing their cuts and closures first-hand shows how out of touch the Pallister government really is," Lamont said in a statement.
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.
Updated on Sunday, August 25, 2019 at 10:58 PM CDT: Edited