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Health Estimates - Cancer Care Manitoba - Innovation and Research

Thursday April 12, I asked the Minister of Health in Estimates about several items.  He responded on two of these - Cancer Care Manitoba and Innovation and Research related to health care.  The text, from Hansard of my questions and the Minister's responses is below.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Just some follow-up on some issues. First of all, the minister noted today that there was a good performance, in terms of radiation therapy for cancer. It's another example of what I've been talking about to the minister, and that is that CancerCare is the best organized specialist service in the province, and it's actually performing very well. Second, on the self-regulation, we discussed this with relationship to radiation technologists, or radiation protection officers, and clearly, the timeline that the minister's working on, which is achieving about two per year, is going to be too slow, and there must be some way to speed that up. Either have a goal of something like five per year, or at least, have the ones that are lower down in the queue working–starting to work on the details so that they can be moving along instead of being just completely blocked for years and years, while the ones ahead of them get the treatment.
      And, thirdly, the lab closures and medical officers. I mentioned that, and the minister said he was going to get back with some follow-up.
      And, fourthly, I asked about suicides, and so let me repeat the question here. What is the minister's approach to the issues of suicides in Manitoba?
Mr. Goertzen: So the member raises a number of questions within the question. Certainly, I agree with him when it comes to CancerCare in Manitoba. It is an organization that does very good work, and certainly I would hear many of the reports from patients that he does about the work that they do, and, of course, more specifically about treatment that's provided. But, more so than that, I say the nature of the treatment; tremendous compassion provided by those who are working at CancerCare Manitoba, and I think that's as much as anything what I often hear about from those who are involved with CancerCare.
      So, you know, I'm glad he raised the issue of radiation treatment in Manitoba, and that Manitoba, according to the CIHI report that was released today, is doing very well compared to other provinces, recognizing that there's more work to do when it comes to hip and knee replacements as well as cataracts. But we don't want to lose sight of the fact that there was also many areas, including radiation and also areas that showed that we were meeting the time frames as set out in terms of the targets by CIHI and they were meeting them quite well. And so we don't want to lose track of that, that there was good news involved there as well. But I appreciate him raising the issue of CancerCare.
      When it comes to self-regulation, you know, as I said yesterday, they are moving it about two a year, it takes tremendous amount of staff resources; it takes a good deal of legal resources in terms of moving professions under the act. I think we're actually moving them faster now than they were under the previous government. You know, the nursing profession is going to be moving under the act; there's work that's now begun when it comes to doctors in terms of the consultations. That's begun. There is active work happening on the paramedic self-regulation, and they'll move under the act as well. But it is a time-intensive, resource-intensive procedure. And so there's no question that it doesn't happen as fast as we would like, but other provinces who are undergoing the same process with similar kinds of umbrella acts when it comes to self‑regulated professions are having the same time frames. And so I understand Alberta is the closest example, and they are also moving at about two a year.
      So he'd like it go faster, I'd like it to go faster; there is a limitation in terms of resources. However, we have provided guidelines to all of the 20 or so, or offered guidelines for all the 20 or so occupations that are in the queue when it comes to moving under The Regulated Health Professions Act. Those guidelines allow them to begin some of the work in preparation for moving under The RHP Act and it allows them to begin that preparatory work for themselves.
      So I understand the member's frustration. I'm sure he's expressing it on behalf of the profession, but I can assure him it's not a lack of desire, but it is a time-intensive process that involves consultation, that involves legal drafting, that involves a great deal  of work with the individual professions. It is  happening now at a rate that is equivalent or greater than has happened before under previous governments. We've given now actually a queuing for the next five professions which wasn't provided before. I can understand why professions were frustrated because they didn't know where they lined up in that. Now they might not be happy that they're not in the top five, but at least they have an understanding of where things are going and that's important too.
      So try to be transparent on that, even if people don't like the result of that transparency, and also providing the resources that the department has to ensure that they're moving forward by giving options in terms of preparation for others to do some of the work with their colleges as if they are further down in the queue.
Mr. Gerrard: Yes, so lab closures in medical office–the medical–the minister's approach to suicides, and let me add one thing more, the Premier (Mr. Pallister) mentioned, that he was very keen on innovation. Underlying innovation in health care is research, and so I'm interested in the minister's approach to research as it relates to health care.
Mr. Goertzen: I appreciate the member's question on research. Being a physician, of course, he'll have not only a great deal of knowledge, but I'm sure a great deal of opinions on that topic as well. He'll know that, you know, we work closely with Research Manitoba when it comes to the different areas of research in health-related fields.
      He'll also know that the University of Manitoba, it's where we really have the repository for the information in Manitoba, where we can do and commission different research reports based on the health information that is stored there collectively, and I think in many ways we're the envy of many provinces to have the data housed in one location where researchers and others can make application to use some of that information, of course protecting privacy, so the information is used as an aggregate, not used as individual information, of course, because protection of health privacy and health information is critical.
      So that depository at the University of Manitoba and the reports that are generated from it, either from the centre itself or from others who are accessing the information is very important. I think it's one of the most enviable places to be in the province of Manitoba. I think the fact that we have a province of   a certain size, I think that that's particularly important.
      You know, would we like to see more co‑ordination in research, both in terms of the kind of research that's being done and how information is being used? I think we could be more co-ordinated in Manitoba. Of course, it's a competitive industry, right, in terms of research, and people are applying for grants, you know, often federally, and there's–it can be competition between that as well. I think we could do a better job of co-ordination, both in terms of the access of information and also the kind of research that's being done.
Mr. Gerrard: Yes. Just one quick question: For physicians and–who are leaving, like at Snow Lake, is the minister making sure that there's exit interviews done to follow up why people are leaving?
The Acting Chairperson (Len Isleifson): The time being 5 o'clock, I'm interrupting the proceedings. The Committee of Supply will resume sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.


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