NDP slams Pallister over ‘secrecy’
Public deserves details about ER wait times, health critic says
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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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.”
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.