The COVID-19 pandemic has required northerners and all Manitobans to make many changes to our daily lives in order to flatten the curve here in the province.
Amid these uncertain times, the health and well-being of Northern Manitobans is being further threatened by the indefinite suspension of operating room services at the Flin Flon General Hospital. This cut is making it more challenging for people to access health care services they need and to abide by the COVID-19 health guidelines. There seems to be an inequality in the provisions of health care professionals in Flin Flon. Doctors are available in Thompson and The Pas, but the same cannot be said for our community. It begs the question, why not Flin Flon?
A group of concerned residents and myself have been trying to get answers on whether the operating room closure will be temporary or a permanent fixture. Letters have been sent to the minister of health, and to the CEO and chairman of the board of the Northern Regional Health Authority. We have not yet received adequate response on the matter. On May 13, I had the opportunity to ask the minister questions in the house on the Flin Flon operating room, but again he didn’t take the opportunity to give meaningful answers.
Senior homes in other Manitoba jurisdictions have been hit hard with COVID as facilities report positive tests among patients and staff. When asked what the current staffing levels are in those facilities, we are told by the NRHA to file a freedom of information request, which will take months to receive. This, if anything, indicates there is a staffing shortage because there’s no other reason to put us through a lengthy process when they can easily acquire and provide us this information.
To date we’ve seen federal and provincial economic packages delivered to businesses, farmers and others in the agricultural sector. However, fishers in the north, whose industry has been shut down have yet to receive any supports. This will have a huge economic impact on both individuals and families across the north. The government must step in and fill the gaps to help fishers continue to work and minimize the costs incurred due to coronavirus related economic downturns. Economic recovery requires making the necessary investments in our industries today, not after the fact.
The government continues to waste time during these sittings on bills unrelated to the pandemic, instead of addressing and discussing pressing issues experienced by people in our province. This government’s usual lack of meaningful involvement on issues impacting the north continues during a time when we need them most.
On May 6, we resumed sitting in the house but only for one afternoon per week for the month of May. This is not nearly enough time for all MLAs or critics to have meaningful participation. It is time for Premier Brian Pallister to quit hiding and resume more sittings to be held to account for the decisions his government is making.
While the office is closed we continue to work from home and can be reached by email at Flinflon1@yourmanitoba.ca or Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca or by calling 1-204-687-3246.