(Updated October 2)
Manitoba healthcare is at a crossroads. Major primary care clinics are under stress, and at risk of failing. From emergency care to home care, the entire system is at a breaking point caused by Pallister-era decisions to close emergency rooms and privatize services.
Manitobans believe that everyone in our province has the right to the care they need when they need it - regardless of ability to pay.
It is vitally important that we address the staffing crisis facing Manitoba’s hospitals, clinics, Personal Care Homes and home-based services.
In order to solve this crisis we must put an end to the urgent threat of privatization in our health care system.
The Manitoba Health Coalition advocates for evidence-based improvements to our public health care system, stimulates public education on health care issues and drive positive change to our health care system through campaigns across the province. Through this work, we have developed a set of priorities we hope voters will find useful in their deliberations and in their interactions with candidates from all parties. You can find those priorities here.
The Manitoba PC's have not released a full platform in this election. What they have released, to date, can be found here.
The full Manitoba NDP platform can be found here.
The full Manitoba Liberal Platform can be found here.
Below, we will go through MHC priorities and indicate the positions of the three major parties on these issues to the best of our capacity. If you notice any errors or omissions, please let us know at [email protected].
Increased, Stable and Predictable Funding For Health Care
Seven years of health care cuts, chaos and privatization have left hospitals and RHA-provided services struggling to manage capacity. Budget cuts in the name of austerity have resulted in a growing health care deficit in this province. The disastrous decision to cut 3 of 6 emergency rooms in Winnipeg did considerable damage to critical care capacity to the province as a whole - while rural and northern health facilities have too often been forced to shutter their doors. Doctors, nurses and medical professionals have raised the alarm over Manitoba's mounting health care capacity crisis.
MHC is calling for Increased, Stable and Predictable Funding For Health Care, including multi-year funding commitments to hospitals and Regional Health Authorities.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: The Manitoba PCs have made few health care announcements, which will be summarized in their respective sections. On their website is a sections called Healthy Communities which mostly restates announcements made by the PC government immediately prior to the election call.
NDP: The Manitoba NDP’s centre-piece pledge is a plan to build three new emergency rooms in Winnipeg to replace the ERs closed during the Pallister-era, as well as a new ER in Eriksdale. This plan was supported by Dr. Eric Jacobsohn, internist, anesthesiologist and head of research and the Health Science Centre and Dr. Brian Postl, former CEO of the WRHA and former Dean of the Max Rady College of Medicine. Other announcements to date include reducing ER Waits at the Grace Hospital and opening 4 new family medical centres in Winnipeg and 1 in Brandon staffed by primary care teams.
LIB:The Manitoba Liberal Party has committed to create a new Brandon Campus of the University of Manitoba Medical School dedicated to rural and northern family medicine.
No party has addressed the specific priority of establishing stable, multi-year funding commitments to hospitals and Regional Health Authorities. We will continue to press the importance of this priority to whichever party forms government following October 3.
We are gravely concerned by the deep tax cuts proposed by the PC's during this campaign. Over seven years, the Manitoba PC government has delivered over $1 Billion in tax cuts, mostly benefitting the wealthiest individuals and corporations, despite urgent pleas for investment in health care. The results has been cuts and closures to health care facilities across the province. This was paid for by closing ERs and cancelling $1 Billion in health capital projects. More and deeper tax cuts for the richest will only result in more health care cuts for Manitoba families. In regards to expansion of funding to primary care, MHC would encourage all parties to support the work of our Community Health Centres with increased support for staffing and programming.
Fix The Staffing Crisis
Simply put, the Manitoba PC government dedicated itself from its first day to an attack on health-care workers. Its illegal wage-freeze legislation, divisive and unnecessary representation votes and cuts to hospital-based services led to a "valley of despair" amongst health care workers long before COVID-19. The relationship between the government and the front-lines of health care delivery have been broken by a government focused on profit before patients.
The most insulting aspect of the current government's approach to health care workers must be its confusing and unaccountable Health Human Resource Action Plan. The provincial government first committed to spending $200 million to add 2,000 new health care workers. No timeline was provided, and no specific targets were established. The government then proceeded to provide progress updates that did not indicate how many professionals had left health care at the same time new workers came on board, rendering these updates useless to any discussion of the actual state of Manitoba health care. In the final days before the election the government announced that it's plan was actually a $400 million plan - with the same target of 2,000 health care staff.
MHC is calling for the establishment of a credible Health Care Human Resources Strategy with baselines, timelines and frontline participation.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: A re-elected PC government would invest $120 million into a permanent recruitment fund to expand Manitoba’s health-care workforce, $40 million of which would be targeted for recruitment and retention in rural communities.
NDP: The NDP opened the campaign with a $500 million pledge over four years to hire 300 nurses in Winnipeg, 300 nurses in rural and northern communities and 400 new doctors - the target set by Doctors Manitoba.
Other announcements to date include:
- 200 new paramedics over the course of four years, endorsed by the Paramedics Association of Manitoba
- Improving working conditions for nurses with a plan endorsed by the Manitoba Nurses Union
- 100 new homecare workers
- A 5-point plan to streamline credentialing and registration for internationally educated health professionals
- New training seats for doctors and nurses at the Bannatyne Campus
- Hiring 250 health providers to work in doctors' offices and medical clinics over the next four years - endorsed by the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals
LIB:The Liberal platform includes commitments to:
- Offer bonuses of $10,000 to nurses and health professionals in the public system and a $5,000 bonus to Healthcare Workers and Team Members, including homecare workers. A separate $10,000 bonus will be issued for nurses and health professionals who return to the public system. The bonuses will be pro-rated so that those who work casual or part-time are included
- Work with Doctors Manitoba to change the fee-for-service model to a flex-pay model so family doctors can take the extra time they need with their patients
- Work with Doctors Manitoba to determine the number of medical residencies needed to expand the number of doctors practicing in Manitoba
- Establish a Doctor of Medicine (MD) Degree Program at the University of Brandon affiliated with the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine focused on training physicians for rural and northern communities
- Build a new lecture hall at the Health Sciences Centre to accommodate more students
- Train more Physician Assistants to expand services within the health care system
No matter which party forms government after October 3, re-building the broken relationship with front-line health care providers will be a critical priority. it is encouraging to see well-considered platforms from both the Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberals in this regard. The Manitoba NDP is the only party that has provided specific targets and timelines, with buy-in from the organizations representing frontline-health care providers.
Seniors Deserve Better
Too often, we are only learning about the tragic outcomes in Manitoba seniors care because homecare clients, Personal Care Home residents and/or their families are desperate enough to go to the media. Worryingly, Manitoba Health does not even license private home care companies or agencies.
Home care in Manitoba was once the gold standard for all of Canada precisely because it was a comprehensive, universal, public service.Cuts to public home care under the Pallister and now Stefanson governments, in tandem with the increased priority placed on for-profit delivery, has left many Manitobans with expensive private care, unreliable care, or no care at all.
And now the PC government has allowed Extendicare - which failed care home residents in Saskatchewan and was removed from that province - to take over Revera-owned for-profit homes in Manitoba.
We need a Seniors Advocate to stand up for seniors, legislated direct hours of care in our PCHs, and the phasing out of for-profit long-term care.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: A re-elected PC government would allow seniors to defer some or all of their yearly property taxes and introduce new supports to cover the cost of mobility aids.
NDP: The NDP has committed to 100 more homecare workers and reimburse them fairly for mileage. Other commitments include:
- Establish a legislated, independent Seniors' Advocate
- Increase homecare hours for seniors
- More direct hours of care for seniors in Personal Care Homes
LIB: The Manitoba Liberals have committed to creating a “Safe at Home” strategy help seniors retrofit their homes. Other commitments within the Liberal plan include:
- Home assessments once individuals turn 70 years of age to address long-term needs and to ensure standardized quality of care
- Expanding Homecare and Palliative Care Programs, ensuring that people can continue to receive treatment to ease symptoms, even when they are in Palliative care
- Restoring the lifesaving drugs program, including diabetes drugs and devices – pumps, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and CPAP machines
- Establishing the Office of a Seniors Advocate
- Staffing ratios in Personal Care Homes
MHC is pleased that both NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont signed the pledge to for a legislated Seniors Advocate in Manitoba. PC Leader Heather Stefanson was offered an opportunity to sign that pledge, but chose not to do so. No party has taken up the call to phase-out for-profit long-term care, which will continue to be a MHC priority for the next government.
Protect Public Health Care
At every step, the push for increased private delivery of health care services - from out-of-province surgical providers to for-profit home care services - has led to less transparency and accountability, staff being poached from the public system, higher (or hidden) costs for families and worse outcomes for patients.
The privatization of air ambulance services has been linked to the tragic death of Krystal Mousseau.
The Manitoba Health Coalition is a leading voice in the fight against efforts to privatize health care, such as the provincial government’s Surgical and Diagnostic Recovery Task Force’s decision to sign secretive contracts with out-of-province and out-of-country clinics.
MHC helped to expose that the Task Force signed a secret contract with Cambie Surgeries and Dr. Brian Day, who has been the biggest proponent of private, user-pay, two-tier health care in Canada. And even here in Manitoba, Prota Clinic - whose owners donated directly to Premier Stefanson's PC leadership campaign - were granted a provincial government contract despite illegally charging patients user fees for medically necessary services.
The Manitoba Health Coalition has called for the creation of a Made-In-Manitoba Medicare Protection Act.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: The PC government has stood on its record during this campaign.
NDP:The Manitoba NDP has made several promises for increased investment in surgical and diagnostic capacity within the public system, including:
- A Centre of Excellence for joint surgery at Concordia Hospital
- A Cardiac Care Centre of Excellence at St. Boniface Hospital
- A world-class CancerCare facility
- Expanding surgical capacity at the Grace Hospital
- A new MRI for Thompson Hospital
LIB:The Manitoba Liberal Party platform calls for significantly increased investment in the public system, and a promise for public, universal mental health care (which will be discussed in its proper section).
While no party has targeted specific legislative measures to address the impact of for-profit health care in Manitoba, we are please to see firm commitments to investment in the public system by both the Manitoba Liberals and the Manitoba NDP. The specific investments promised by the Manitoba NDP would go a long way to increasing surgical capacity right here in Manitoba - instead of sending procedures out of the province and even out of the country.
Stand Up For Choice
Maternal health and reproductive rights are under attack across North America. MHC is calling for increased funding and access for reproductive health services across Manitoba, universal coverage for prescription contraceptives, and a commitment to bring back the Mature Women's Health Centre.
PC:The Manitoba PCs have made no announcements on women's health care in this campaign.
NDP: The Manitoba NDP has committed to several measures including increasing the Healthy Child Prenatal benefit and improving access to abortion services. Other commitments include:
- Universal coverage for prescription contraceptives
- Bringing back the Mature Women's Health Centre cut by the current PC government in 2017.
- Restoring birthing services in the North and hiring seven forensic nurses as part of a province-wide sexual assault nurse examiner strategy
LIB: The Manitoba Liberal party platform commits to work in partnership with the Federal Government to restore birth services and pre-natal care to First Nations communities, establish a birth centre in Cross Lake and to deliver a program to train Indigenous midwives and doulas.
MHC's Position: We are pleased to see the positive commitments made by both the Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberals. Only the NDP has meaningfully responded to the specific calls made by the Manitoba Health Coalition.
Mental Health And Addictions
Nowhere has the failure of the current Manitoba PC government been more apparent than in its handing of the mental health and addictions file. Lives continue to be lost at an accelerating rate while this government peddles an ineffective law enforcement approach while denying the provision of life-saving services. The drug poisoning crisis is taking lives and causing chaos in every community in Manitoba. People in Winnipeg and across the province have been clear that they want the provincial government to support life-saving harm reduction services, including safer consumption services. The need to support harm reduction services in Manitoba, and the continuum of care which includes supervised consumption and overdose prevention services, is urgent and immediate.
MHC calls for Universal Mental Health Care, support for community-based harm reduction services and partnership with underserved communities to address the youth suicide crisis.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: The Manitoba PCs have committed to doubling the number of provincially-funded treatment spaces across Manitoba to 3,200 over the next two years and investing $12.7 million to support community organizations. They have also committed to up to $10-million in capital funding towards the for-profit Quest Health Recovery Centre. Unfortunately, their announcements and press events have been used to spread fear and stigma around evidence policies such as supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention services and safer supply programs that save lives.
NDP: The Manitoba NDP used their power as Official Opposition to block Bill 33, which would have shut down overdose prevention services and harmed organizations working with the most vulnerable members of our society. It has publicly stated its support for supervised consumption services in Manitoba, and committed to hiring 100 mental health care workers to help respond to non-violent emergencies.
LIB: The Manitoba Liberals have committed to:
- Making mental health care free and universal under Medicare
- Covering the cost of regulated psychotherapy
- Investing in the U of Manitoba Department of Psychology and other post-secondary institutions to expand training
- Funding a 24/7 referral line for addictions treatment.
- Supporting organizations that run overdose prevention centres
- Covering burnout and mental injuries for workers under the Workers’ Compensation Board
MHC's Position: We believe that mental health care should be free under Medicare. We thank the Manitoba Liberal Party for responding to this specific call - which would also have a significant impact for youth at risk of suicide. Both the Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberals have indicated their support for harm reduction services, including overdose prevention services and supervised consumption sites. Too many lives have been lost while the Manitoba PC government has made up complete fabrications about supervised consumption sites in California that never existed, made up stories about visiting supervised consumption sites in Vancouver later contradicted by the BC government, and spread fear and misunderstanding about harm reduction services.
Social Determinants Of Health
The Manitoba Health Coalition is united under our shared vision for a strong, public health care system that works for all Manitobans without distinction of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, political belief, immigration status, and economic or social condition. But so long as poverty, racism and discrimination lead to worse health outcomes, our health care is not universal.
MHC calls for a Reconciliation Framework in Health Care, Health Care For All regardless of immigration status, and support for culturally competent and gender-affirming community health centres.
Where The Parties Stand:
PC: The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba led by Premier Heather Stefanson has taken out a full-page ad re-iterating their commitment not to work with the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to search for the bodies of their loved ones, and promoted reckless and divisive policies in schools.
NDP: The NDP have committed to:
- New rules around affordable housing including rent control, a $700 tax credit and increased oversight
- A universal school nutrition program
- Ending chronic homelessness in two terms by connecting people with housing and mental health supports
LIB: The centre-piece of the Manitoba Liberal plan is the implementation of a provincial guaranteed dignified income (Mincome) for people with severe physical or mental disabilities, as well as people over 60. They party also has a plan for reconciliation in its platform. It has also committed to restoring health coverage for international students - a significant component (but not the entirety of) Healthcare For All's call for health coverage regardless of immigration status. They have also committed to a school nutrition program.
MHC's Position: The last few weeks have highlighted how far some interests will go to promote division and fear between communities in our province. The PC party's willingness to target Indigenous communities, Trans and Queer youth and political opponents with fear-based, discriminatory policies and statements have done significant damage in a very short period of time. Both the Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberals have committed to work with families to search the landfill. The next government will need to work across the aisle and across communities to provide the kind of leadership we deserve, which has been sorely missing for the last seven years.