Speaking to an audience of municipal leaders and rural families today in Virden, Manitoba NDP Leader, Wab Kinew, announced his party’s plan to fix rural health care. Kinew was joined at the podium by NDP candidates, Wayne Chacun, a paramedic from Virden, and Mike Sudak, a veteran and councilor from Carberry.
Kinew shared his thoughts about the many changes in health care, especially in the rural areas of the province.
“The biggest challenge facing rural communities right now is health care,” Kinew told the audience in Virden. “Brian Pallister and Heather Stefanson eroded rural health care for seven years, leaving rural families cut off from care and rural communities struggling to build a future. Our team is ready to fix that with common sense solutions that will deliver better health care and a brighter future for rural families and communities.”
"So, for us, we're very passionate about health care as the Manitoba NDP," he continued, "and this seemed like the right location to unveil our commitments to help make sure that health care stays strong, whether you live in Virden, whether you live in Carberry, whether you live in any part of this great province."
The Opposition Leader feels Manitoba is in a crisis when it comes to health care.
"[...}and I think folks realize that, specifically the staffing crisis," said Kinew. "We don't have the lab techs, the physicians and the nurses, the paramedics, to be able to meet the needs of our population. I think, unfortunately, there's been a few mistakes made by governments over the years that have contributed to the situation."
"The piece that really concerns me is right now," he added, "(is) Saskatchewan is making a heavy push to recruit health care talent, so is Ontario and many of the other provinces. So, I think Manitoba has to really get into the game. We've got to put forward a strong plan that's not only competitive on the career side, but also shows the folks working on the front lines of the system that they're valued and that there is going to be a future for them here in the province. Because otherwise, we could risk the situation getting even worse.
"So, that's what our commitment today is all about; it's about the people who make the healthcare system work, and consequently improving things for the patients who rely on them."
According to a news release sent out by the party, the NDP’s plan addresses the closures of rural ERs and health care centers, health care staffing shortages, and dangerous wait times for emergency care.
1. More doctors in rural communities.
We’ll reinstate the rural physician recruitment fund that Brian Pallister cut and then we’ll double it. More doctors in rural Manitoba will keep families healthier with better primary and emergency care. Restoring this fund will help recruit more doctors in rural areas while taking the pressure off smaller communities that have been forced to fundraise for their healthcare.
2. Shorter wait times for ambulances and better cell service.
We’ll fill the paramedic staffing vacancies that grew under Brian Pallister and Heather Stefanson by giving rural paramedics a new contract, paying them the same as Winnipeg paramedics and allowing Advanced Care Paramedics to work to their full scope of practice. And we’ll work to improve cell service in rural communities so emergency calls don’t drop.
3. More staff to keep rural health centres open.
We’ll keep ERs open by recruiting and retaining more diagnostic imaging and lab technologists by giving them a competitive deal. And we’ll offer incentives to allied health professionals, nurses and nurse practitioners to work in rural communities.
4. Health technology to connect families with the best specialists.
We’ll equip rural health care centres with technology to reduce patient transfers and connect rural families with the best specialists in the province. And we’ll improve rural broadband to support this.
5. The care seniors need to stay healthy at home.
We’ll reimburse homecare workers properly for their mileage to help seniors age in place. We’ll build more Personal Care Home beds to keep seniors in their home communities. And we’ll increase access to primary care in rural communities to keep seniors healthy.
Wayne Chacun, a paramedic in Virden, spoke in support of Kinew’s plan.
“I’ve been working in rural EMS since the early 80s and things have never been as bad as they are now. Ambulance diversions, closed hospitals and staffing shortages are putting patients in danger. We can’t afford to lose more paramedics to Winnipeg because the PC government won’t treat them fairly. The Manitoba NDP’s plan will help fix staffing shortages and keep patients safe.”
Mike Sudak, a veteran, and councillor for the RM of Carberry, told the audience about his family’s harrowing journey down the highway in search of medical care for his wife whose throat was swelling up. After finding their local ER closed, he decided they didn’t have time to wait for an ambulance, and he drove her 40 minutes down the highway to Brandon himself.
“I never thought the country I served for, a G7 nation that other countries look to for help, would have closed hospitals with no doctors or ambulances,” he said. “It’s disheartening and I feel let down.”
~Written with files from Barry Lamb~
Listen to more of the interview with Manitoba NDP leader, Wab Kinew, and reporter Barry Lamb as they discuss topics such as recruitment, health care for seniors, and funding more services at the front line.