On Thursday December 6, in Question Period, I asked for accelerated passage of Bill 5 - which changes the Mental Health Act and the Personal Health Information Act in order to allow health care providers to contact members of a person's circle of care when there is a potential danger to the person's life - as when a person may be suicidal. The passage of this bill has the potential to prevent suicides and save lives - and if it had been present three years ago might have saved the life of Reid Bricker. Although, the government did not concede to my request to pass the bill on December 6th, the government did support passage of the bill at second reading later in the day so the bill can go to committee in January or February of 2019 and return to be passed early next session in March.
Request to Pass Legislation
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes. Madam Speaker, yesterday the MLA for St. Boniface and I wrote to the Premier (Mr. Pallister) and the leader of the opposition to see if all parties could work together to pass Bill 5 today so that many Manitobans will be able to have a less anxious holiday season.
We have on occasion passed legislation like this where there's urgency and all-party agreement. The urgency here is that it will make an immediate difference to help individuals who come to our health‑care institutions for assistance and are today being sent home without contacting members of their circle of care and without also ensuring a proper discharge plan.
Will the Minister of Health support our effort to have Bill 5 passed today?
Hon. Cameron Friesen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Madam Speaker, in principle, I would thank the opposition parties for seeing the obvious merits of the bill brought by our government in respect of Bill 5, a bill that sets out to rebalance the conversation better in terms of our understanding of the need to preserve and safeguard personal information of patients, but on the other hand creating the ability for health providers to give notification to family members or others when they feel that someone's life could be in danger.
We're proud of this bill. We're proud of the process that it took to get to this bill's introduction, and we're thankful that others are seeing the merits of it, as well.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I table today a letter from a mother whose son with a severe mental health condition was admitted recently to the crisis response centre. In spite of being told that he would not be discharged without the family involved and without a proper discharge plan, he was discharged in the last three days without the 'falmin'–family knowing ahead of time and without a proper discharge plan.
Today he was involved in a car accident.
Madam Speaker, it is to prevent deaths and to prevent injuries like this with this son that we are asking for all-party support for passing Bill 5 today.
Will the Minister of Health support our efforts to have Bill 5 passed today?
Mr. Friesen: Well, Madam Speaker, again, I thank the member for his enthusiasm for this bill.
I want to caution the member: this bill needs the proper time for the rules that will actually govern the education of the health-care providers.
We're talking about a process by which new policy will be put in place where thousands of workers will be trained, changes in policy at the Department of Health, at every regional health authority and at Shared Health.
This is not a magic light switch that we turn on today, and this is a process that families with lived experiences have said is essential: the process to train.
We all want the same thing, but there's a safe way to get there, and I would caution the member that he's not auguring towards safety with the comments he's making.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I'm aware of four other cases in the last few weeks where individuals with major mental health issues, including being suicidal, were discharged or sent away from an emergency room without adequate contact with the family and without a proper discharge plan.
These families are now extremely anxious about their loved ones, certain of whom who are at very high risk of suicide. I plead with the Minister of Health to support the effort to pass Bill 5 today. We can do it with agreement and with leave and pass this magic light.
Do I have the Minister of Health's support in asking for leave to ensure we're able to pass Bill 5 today and very likely save lives?
Mr. Friesen: Madam Speaker, let's be clear: it's a false position that the member tries to advance. I caution him greatly on this matter. This is a reckless suggestion he makes.
The families with lived experiences say, you must get this right. They say it is essential to train people.
It would be the worst betrayal of Manitobans to pass a law in the Legislature and somehow pretend that we could stand up all the formal structures to support this new policy.
We need this policy in Manitoba to save lives. We must do this together. If the member is truly expressing support for the government's bill, he will be with us, and I would welcome his suggestions on how to advance more quickly the education of health-care workers in the system to help be successful overall.