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Brian Pallister said a re-elected Progressive Conservative government would hire 200 additional nurses and 80 more rural paramedics over the next four years.

At a campaign announcement Monday, the PC leader said he would also establish a $40-million fund to carry out innovative projects brought forward by front-line health staff.

Pallister could not immediately state the baseline figure the Tories would use to measure their promise of additional nurses. He said it would be provided when the party releases its fully-costed election platform later in the campaign.

A party spokesman later said the 200 new nursing positions would be over and above current staffing levels, once vacant positions are filled.

Manitobans go to the polls Sept. 10.

On Monday, Pallister denied there had been layoffs to front-line health-care staff under his watch. "Absolutely not," he told reporters at a health clinic on Corydon Avenue; he said layoffs had been limited to management positions.

While some front-line programs, such as lactation consultation and hospital physiotherapy services, have been slashed, Pallister said that was due to the need to redirect scarce resources. It hasn't meant fewer people working in health care, he maintained.

The $40-million health-care innovation fund would be similar to a fund created to spur ideas for improvement from within the civil service, Pallister said.

"We know that the front-line workers in our province have great ideas," he said. "The savings that come from these innovations can be reinvested in improved health care for our patients."

The PCs estimated the cost of their promises Monday at about $60 million over four years.

The Manitoba Nurses Union said it would welcome any addition to the workforce that will help alleviate "the worsening shortage" of nurses in the province.

"However, the fact is the current government has repeatedly ignored calls for help from the front lines," the MNU said in a statement. "We’ve lost nurses from the system as a result of the cuts and closures, and we’ve heard countless reports of increasing short staffing and overtime since October 2017."

The NDP responded to the Tory promise by pointing to the results from a freedom of information request that shows Winnipeg hospitals had 250 fewer nurses and health-care aides on March 31 of this year than on the same date the previous year.

Health officials cautioned in providing the information, however, that due to changes in data collection beginning in 2018, it wasn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont accused the PCs of ignoring and laying off front-line health workers "all while making their work so hard people feel they have no choice but to quit."

He said the Tories have also created "an entirely new layer of bureaucracy" in Shared Health.


Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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