Min­is­ter gets heat for doc­tor short­age

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - METRO NEWS -

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.

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