Health Care - Question Period - Why is the government committed to providing better access to cannabis than to health care?
Today in Question Period I asked the Minister of Health about access to health care and whether he will be closing ICUs and Operating Rooms as well as Emergency Rooms at Concordia and Seven Oaks Hospitals. The answer was not reassuring. I also asked about the long wait times for care including for hip and knee surgery and the potential for longer waits for ambulances when some rural ambulance stations close. It is curious that the Pallister government has committed for ensuring all Manitobans are within 30 minutes of an outlet for cannabis, while at the same time waits for health care are often longer than this. Where is his priority? My questions and the Health Minister's responses are on video at this link, or in the text from Hansard below:
Concordia and Seven Oaks Hospitals - Hip and Knee Surgery Wait Times
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, quick access to good health care, including emergency rooms, operating rooms and ICUs is essential. ERs are being closed and already the median wait time in March is at more than two hours, up from 1.4 hours in October.
But that plan is also to close operating rooms and intensive‑care units. Concordia Hospital specializes in hip and knee replacements which can have complications, and if the ICU at Concordia is closed patients will have to be moved post-op to another hospital.
Is the government planning to close the ICUs and operating rooms at Concordia and Seven Oaks as well as their emergency rooms?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Well, the member is correct, quick access to care is important. That's why we're pleased to see, after phase 1, that when we compare the times–the wait times at the beginning of the transformation to now, recognizing it's still early, they are down 16 per cent, Madam Speaker. That represents hundreds of hours, thousands of hours that Manitobans are not waiting in an emergency room.
Quick access is important. If the member truly cared about quick access he would have supported the plan.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, as the minister and the government well know, this year the federal government is transferring record amounts of funds to the Province of Manitoba, including for health, and yet waiting times at emergency rooms are too long and waiting times for hip and knee surgeries are getting longer, not shorter.
Manitobans have a right to know what this government has planned.
With closures of ICUs, ERs and possibly ORs, how are hip and knee surgery wait times going to be shortened?
Mr. Goertzen: Well, Madam Speaker, the member continues his defence of Ottawa. He continues to fail to represent Manitobans and continues to represent and defend the federal Liberal government, the very same federal Liberal government that ran in the last election on having all the premiers come together and have a national discussion and negotiation on the future of health care when it comes to funding from the federal government, where they've gone from a 50 per cent partner to a 19 per cent partner.
They reduced the funding by $2.2 billion over what was expected. They didn't have that national discussion. They refused to discuss it–the Prime Minister did with the premiers–and that member today, still, two years after, continues to defend a cut to funding to health care in Manitoba. He should be ashamed of himself, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Rural Ambulance Services - Patients Distance from Stations
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, if the blame game were an Olympic sport, the minister would be working hard to try and get there.
The government has a credibility gap. Wait times across our system are too long. [interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gerrard: In rural areas, for example, ambulance stations are being closed. As I heard last week in Boissevain, if its ambulance station is closed, some Manitobans will be more than half an hour from an ambulance, especially in winter.
Now, this government has made its formal commitment and promise that cannabis will be available to any Manitoban within a 30‑minute drive.
I ask: Why is this government more committed to ensuring Manitobans have better access to cannabis than they have to health care?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Madam Speaker, I've been accused of many things. This is the first time I'm being accused of being an Olympic athlete–
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
An Honourable Member: It's never too late.
Mr. Goertzen: It's never too late, but it might be a little bit late for me.
But Madam Speaker, you know, the member talks about the federal Liberal government deciding to legalize cannabis; the federal Liberal government that hasn't given proper time, proper consideration to the provincial governments. The unified position among provinces is there should be more time because we know of the harm that it can cause for young people, particularly those 25 and under.Our Premier (Mr. Pallister), our Minister of Justice (Mrs. Stefanson), took the lead nationally to ask for more time to ensure that we really could have a–the right plan to protect young people. We all stood up in defence of that; that member sat and said nothing, Madam Speaker.