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A Forum - The impact of the Pallister cuts - and finding a way forward

Sunday November 19th I hosted a Forum to explore the impact of the Pallister government cutbacks and to chart a course forward.  Three panelists joined me.  From left to right, in the photo above, they are Shelley Kowalchuk, Judy Walker and Alex Arenson.

Alex Arenson, a Winnipeg lawyer and an advocate for the Corydon Primary Care Clinic, was the first of the panelists to speak.   He covered the history of the events since the government first announced that the Clinic would be closing in July 11, 2017.  According to the latest plans, the Corydon Primary Care Clinic will close in mid-January 2018.   As Mr. Arenson discussed, the closure of this clinic makes no sense either in terms of service for people or economically.   Just as people who went to the Misericordia Urgent Care are not going to the Victoria Hospital Urgent Care because it is too far away, few people from the immediate area around the Corydon Clinic will travel to near Bishop Grandin Boulevard for their primary care - for that is where the Corydon Clinic will move.  Eliminating the Corydon Primary Care Clinic is thus another blow to the provision of primary care service to people in the Fort Rouge, River Heights and Wolseley area.

Judy Walker, whose son has an intellectual disability, next talked of the planned changes in support for adults with disabilities. She spoke of the great concern that the Conservative government might try to reverse the decades long effort to enable people like her son to live in the community.   She was passionate about the need for support in the community and the large benefits her son has had from his ability to be able to live in the community. She also expressed concern over plans to offload costs of care to families who are unable to afford it.

Shelley Kowalchuk, a physiotherapist who serves on the executive of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, talked about the impact of the cuts to outpatient physiotherapy services.  While a small remnant of the previously existing outpatient physiotherapy services will continue at the Health Sciences Centre, large areas of need will now be left to individuals to seek private physiotherapy services.   As Ms Kowalchuk indicated, their assessment shows that only 15% of the clients currently served by outpatient services have insurance which will cover private physiotherapy services.  This means that 85% of those who need the services will likely not be receiving the services because they can not afford it.  The absence of these services for those in need will, sadly, result in many having to come back into hospital because they will not be able to fully recover.   This will result in extra costs to the whole health care system instead of savings.   The Pallister government is sadly so misguided in so many of its health care changes that they will not achieve the savings estimated and will in the end have more sickness and less recovery.

A sizable crowd came out and participated in the discussion.  There was a lot of concern raised in particular with respect to the impact of the loss of the Corydon Primary Care Clinic at a time when improved primary care is essential.   There was also a lot of comment and discussion about the impacts of the outpatient physiotherapy, recreational therapy and audiology cuts. At a time when we need to be very vigorous in helping keep people healthy, these cuts are in the wrong direction.  Keeping people well enhances their health and also is cost saving for governments as it saves on expensive emergency and hospital care.  
Manitoba Liberal Leader, Dougald Lamont, provided welcoming remarks and an incisive summing up at the end of the Forum. 
For me, the vigorous discussion with varied comments and questions from the audience was helpful in shaping our approach to the Pallister government's changes to health care.   Many of the changes being made are clearly problematic, and we need to do everything we can to help Pallister and the Conservatives see the errors in their ways and make changes which will improve care instead of changes which will lead to worse care and higher costs.  At the same time, we need to be ready with effective alternatives as we move toward the next provincial election in 2020.  We have already put forward many good ideas on brain and mental health.  We received some excellent and helpful comments in this direction from members of the panel and from the audience, in particular how we might improve the health of our citizens while saving expensive hospital costs.  We will be putting these ideas together to increase the impact of our advocacy and to prepare plans that are much better and that we can deliver if we have a Liberal government provincially in 2020.  We welcome suggestions.   You can reach me by email at

If you are interested in our proposals with respect to Brain and Mental Health see our report at this link -


  1. This was a well organized and important forum, and the panelists' messages were 'on point' with their concerns and the impact of these cuts, which will not lead to "Healing our Health Care System" as the Pallister governments TV ads are suggesting.


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