To the Editor:
It's now two years since I confronted NDP Minister of Health Theresa Oswald with a then two-year old report on maternity care outlining the "troubling regional disparities" in Northern Manitoba.
Since this report came to light, all we have heard are excuses.
Excuses do not equal solutions.
In the report, the Burntwood Regional Health Authority (BRHA) saw the highest teen pregnancy rate in all of rural Manitoba with more than triple the rate of some other RHAs in the province. Also in the BRHA, from 2004 to 2008, stillbirths, neonatal deaths and the number of newborns readmitted to hospital doubled and more mothers had to be readmitted due to complications than in any other RHA outside Winnipeg.
The BRHA has tried rationalizing these dismal outcomes. And while I acknowledge that these reasons are all important - that poverty does present challenges to health care; that more remote communities have less access to health care, to name only two - I don't agree that our government can accept these ongoing challenges, and use them as an excuse for these startling health care outcomes. There is no room for complacency when it comes to the health of people in the North.
Every jurisdiction in Manitoba faces its own set of challenges. That's why the province is divided up into regional health authorities, which can better address the needs of each individual region. And we owe many thanks to the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are committed to providing quality care in the North and work towards this goal every day. Keep up the amazing work.
On numerous occasions, I've proposed solutions - rather than more excuses - to begin to turn around the tragic outcomes in northern maternity care. A big part of that solution is to tackle the critical shortage of midwives throughout the entire province - but especially in the North. This can be accomplished through a better, more comprehensive and accessible training program.
The problem today is that the University College of the North - which is home to the only midwifery training program in the province - has stopped taking new students.
The NDP originally promised to enrol 10 students in the first year and five students in each year subsequent, but we've since learned only five students are in the program and there are no plans to take in any more students until at least 2010 when the first group graduates.
At the end of the day, the fact is that the NDP Minister of Health has been alerted as to these serious trends and shortcomings in maternity care, but she has failed to take action to fix them.
I had hoped that with these statistics out in the open, the minister would take real action to improve maternity care rather than striking yet another task force to only talk about the issues. My hopes have since been dashed.
The facts don't lie. Neonatal deaths and stillbirths in the Burntwood Regional Health Authority are double that of other RHAs in Manitoba.
But no amount of excuses or fast talk will change that fact.
Let's hear some solutions, Minister Oswald. Let's see some change.
Myrna DriedgerProgressive Conservative Health CriticMLA CharleswoodWinnipeg