I am happy to report that we have now returned to the house. We had hoped to start addressing so many of the COVID-19 related issues but what we have seen so far is Premier Brian Pallister again trying to ram through his agenda of cuts, austerity and privatization. They introduced an omnibus bill which makes changes to multiple pieces of legislation and imposes an increase in hydro rates outside of the Public Utilities Board. Next they introduced over 40 other pieces of legislation, none of which have anything to do with the pandemic.
In addition to none of these bills providing aid to Manitobans in this difficult time, they do nothing for the north. Brian Pallister has continued to cut public services Manitobans rely on. Northern Manitobans have felt these cuts; cuts to health care, Northern patient transportation, snow plowing, housing, parks and on and on.
Northern Manitobans’ health matters just as much as every other resident of Manitoba and provincial funding for our healthcare services should reflect that. Here in Flin Flon we have lost obstetric services, OR services and other specialist services. We have seen the Northern Regional Health Authority choose to shut down the entire health complex in Leaf Rapids for two weeks due to staff shortages. The provincial government has failed to help Cross Lake build a much-needed hospital and they have repeatedly failed to address the gaps in healthcare in the North which are widening through increased cuts.
When patients do have to travel for healthcare services, they are forced to stay in Winnipeg for up to five days, in some cases, due to the Calm Air flight schedules. This is concerning at a time when Winnipeg is COVID-19 hotspot. Many patients can’t afford the travel expenses or taking that much time off of work, meaning that many people simply choose not to get the services they desperately need. This has only demonstrated the need for more investments in our Northern healthcare system to ensure people can access the care they need close to home and for those who do need to travel for specialized services, the need for more investments in our Northern Patient Transport program.
We should be talking about the need to protect Northerners during this pandemic. Cases are now being found in communities throughout the North and we do not currently have the capacity in our ravaged northern health care system to handle any kind of wide spread outbreak. First Nations communities have done an admirable job of trying to keep it out of their communities through lockdowns but it is time the Pallister government stepped up and put the resources in place, like more testing sites to increase testing capacity, to keep people safe and healthy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how necessary it is to have a strong healthcare system in place, so I will continue calling on the government to recognize that Northern Manitobans are not getting the health care that they need and that they take action to reverse the healthcare cuts and invest in a strong Northern healthcare system.
Please continue to reach out to my office to make us aware of your concerns at Tom.Lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca or 1-204-687-3246.