New Year, same old story with the lack of healthcare services in Flin Flon. It continues to be an issue as our residents have to be medevaced to Winnipeg for major health issues. The need for healthcare services such as an operating room has become even more pressing given that Winnipeg is a COVID hotspot, with several outbreaks occurring at hospitals. Coupled with decreased flight and transport services, Northern Manitobans have been put in a difficult position. Northerners who have been flown to Winnipeg have been left with no choice but to stay with family or friends after being discharged from the hospital, which is against current code red restrictions. This may take several days with the current flight schedule. Many don’t have the option to stay at a hotel due to financial limitations, which are only made worse by flights which can cost as much as $1,000 on short notice. People are being forced to potentially break the COVID-19 restrictions simply because we have a health care system that does not support the north.
In addition, the government and the Northern Regional Health Authority plan to consolidate three managerial positions in the communities of Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Gillam, into one position in Thompson. This change will likely take away from local oversight and control of services in these communities. This government’s cuts are only adding salt to the wound created by the COVID-19 pandemic; they should be doing all they can to maintain the necessary level of services close to home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed connectivity issues for remote Manitobans like lack of access to reliable and affordable internet. With the government requiring that all students learn remotely for a couple weeks after the holidays, internet access should be guaranteed for all Manitoban students. I’ve heard from people who’ve told me that the internet connection in communities such as Cranberry Portage are so bad that documents can’t load and kids are regularly dropping off calls and can’t get back on. These issues are preventing our kids from learning at a time when it is so critical for them to remain in school. I spoke with the Frontier School Division about what we can do to try and solve this issue. It’s clear that the provincial government needs to work immediately with the federal government to improve internet in northern and rural Manitoba.
The other big issue is access to the COVID vaccine. We have yet to hear the government’s plan for the north other than a proposed supercentre in Thompson. I have heard from concerned healthcare workers who are left to wonder when they might get vaccinated. The Northern MLAs are trying to get answers to this.
I can be reached by phone at 204-687-3246 or by email at Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca if anyone has any questions, comments or concerns.