Minister gets heat for doctor shortage
health care Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady said Tuesday she is amending — not breaking — a long-standing promise to find a family doctor for every Manitoban by the end of this year.
The NDP government said in a 2010 throne speech that anyone who wanted a family doctor would have one by 2015. The promise was repeated often, and as recently as last winter in a government press release.
But with people still on waiting lists, the government has changed its target so that people who can access nurse practitioners — often in Quickcare clinics with limited hours — would count as having had that commitment fulfilled.
“A nurse practitioner has a very broad scope and I do actually have folks that prefer a nurse practitioner to a family physician,” Blady said.
“I would actually view it as an expanded promise to better meet the needs of folks that have asked for additional or different services.”
Opposition health critic Myrna Driedger said the government has clearly broken its word, because nurse practitioners cannot perform all the services a doctor can. She also said thousands of Manitobans are still having trouble accessing either health professional.
“There’s not a lot of nurse practitioners in rural Manitoba. So when you get outside the city, you’ll find that there are a lot of challenges.”
Family doctors are also different from nurse practitioners, Driedger said, in that they tend to have a long-term relationship with patients and are aware of their medical history. Nurse practitioners in clinics are often relied on for sudden, acute problems.
Blady said most people who want a health professional can find one. Figures from her department show as of October’s end, there were only 735 people who had registered with a government program to locate doctors and had waited more than 30 days.
But Driedger said many Manitobans haven’t registered with that service, and figures from regional health authorities show 11 per cent of Winnipeggers do not have a doctor.