NDP slams Pal­lis­ter over ‘se­crecy’

Pub­lic de­serves de­tails about ER wait times, health critic says

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - JANE GERSTER jane.gerster@freep­ress.mb.ca

HE prov­ince’s si­lence about an over­due re­port geared at cut­ting emer­gency room and pri­or­ity pro­ce­dure wait times is in­dica­tive of “a pat­tern of se­crecy by this gov­ern­ment,” the NDP’s health critic says.

Con­cor­dia MLA Matt Wiebe took aim at Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter on Wed­nes­day, ex­actly two months after the prov­ince’s Wait Time Re­duc­tion Task Force was due to re­port back. It has not.

“The bot­tom line is there have been a num­ber of changes in the health sys­tem,” Wiebe told re­porters. “It’s ma­jor re­struc­tur­ing, the big­gest cuts in our health-care sys­tem in a gen­er­a­tion, and it’s all be­ing done with­out that in­for­ma­tion be­ing made pub­lic.”

Wiebe was speak­ing not just about the task force, but also a KPMG re­port on health-care sus­tain­abil­ity that was in the news again this week after a Probe Re­search/Man­i­toba Gov­ern­ment and Gen­eral Em­ploy­ees’ Union sur­vey found an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Man­i­to­bans want the gov­ern­ment to re­lease it.

“The gov­ern­ment has spent $1.5 mil­lion in their ad cam­paign to con­vince

TMan­i­to­bans that the changes are the right changes,” Wiebe said, “but they’re do­ing these changes with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing all the in­for­ma­tion in front of them.”

The NDP learned through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest that the Win­nipeg Re­gional Health Author­ity has bud­geted ap­prox­i­mately $1.5 mil­lion for a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign. In a state­ment, the WRHA said “a ro­bust ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign was com­mis­sioned from an out­side agency to en­sure that up­com­ing changes are com­mu­ni­cated ef­fec­tively and in a timely way.”

Those changes are based largely on a re­port by Dr. David Peachey — com­mis­sioned by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment to find so­lu­tions to old prob­lems in Man­i­toba’s health sys­tem — and the KPMG re­port, which fo­cused on sus­tain­abil­ity. Wiebe has called re­peat­edly for the lat­ter to be re­leased.

“We want to see all the in­for­ma­tion laid out in front of Man­i­to­bans,” he said.

Health Min­is­ter Kelvin Go­ertzen said the task force’s re­port has been de­layed sev­eral months to al­low its mem­bers to work with Shared Health Ser­vices Man­i­toba, the new pro­vin­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced just two days be­fore the

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DEALER PER­MIT #9610 task force was due to re­port on June 30.

Go­erzten said the task force’s work will be “com­ple­men­tary” to the de­ci­sion to fol­low Peachey’s rec­om­men­da­tion to cut the num­ber of Win­nipeg’s ERs in half, and the de­lay could ul­ti­mately help, since Vic­to­ria Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal’s ER and Mis­eri­cor­dia Health Cen­tre’s ur­gent care will be closed by time the task force re­ports back.

“In some ways I think it’s ben­e­fi­cial for them to know how the sys­tem is go­ing to be de­signed as they bring for­ward rec­om­men­da­tions,” he said.

Go­ertzen stood firm on the gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to re­lease the KPMG re­port, de­spite ini­tially telling the pub­lic it would, and de­clin­ing to clar­ify what prompted the change of heart.

“It was con­sid­ered con­fi­dence of cab­i­net,” he said, re­fer­ring to a dis­cre­tionary ex­emp­tion to free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests.

The rea­son the other re­port was re­leased, Go­ertzen said, was be­cause he spoke with Peachey, who “in­di­cated that in the past he had al­ways re­leased his in­for­ma­tion… and it wasn’t con­sid­ered a cab­i­net con­fi­dence.”

RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Con­cor­dia MLA Matt Wiebe (above) crit­i­cized Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter (left) on Wed­nes­day for the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s si­lence about an over­due re­port about ER wait times. The re­port was sup­posed to be re­leased on June 30.

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