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Health Estimates Wednesday April 11 - Radiation Technologists, Insulin Pumps, Meth Crisis

Self-Regulation of Medical Radiation Technologists
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): First, a comment. It came up in one of the minister's replies that oncology at CancerCare has been effective in using telehealth, and what the minister says is true, and it really speaks to the excellence of the quality of care in the specialist network that is part of CancerCare and is another example why CancerCare is, at this point, the best specialist network in the province because they are far ahead on items like that and there are many other areas which are far behind.
      Three points quickly, to catch up. One, I'd asked a question about the labs in medical offices and the closure of a number of those labs and the minister was going to come back, and second, I'd asked about self‑regulation of radiation technologists and the status of that, and third, about the status of efforts in terms of making sure that help with dealing with PTSD was available to individuals in health and emergency professions and volunteers.
Mr. Goertzen: So, when it comes to the issue of self‑regulation and moving under the RHPA, this is something that I've learnt more about than I certainly knew about when I–before I was the Minister of Health. I know the member opposite would have asked questions about it even while I was in opposition. It's not that I didn't listen to him at the time; it just maybe didn't gravitate to me as a matter of interest at the moment. But it certainly has in the last couple of years.
      And it takes a fair bit of time and a degree of effort to transition occupations, even those who are already self-regulated under the RHPA. In fact, I understand–and it's not just true for Manitoba; it'd be true in other provinces as well–that they transition at a rate of about two per year. That'll be true for other jurisdictions who have something similar to an RHPA in their transitioning self-regulated bodies into.
      To bring clarity to that, because there was a great deal of–I don't want to use the word jockeying but certainly justifiable questions from different self‑regulated professions about when they are going  to be transitioning. We have indicated, more formally, that there is a transition order when it comes to those different professions. There are currently 20 regulated health professions who are waiting to transition to the RHPA, and we–as I mentioned, we estimate we can do about two professions per year.
      The professions of psychology, registered psychiatric nursing, licensed practical nursing, physiotherapy and medical laboratory technologists have been identified for some time as the next professions to transition to the RHPA. So we've now said that more publicly.
      I think that that’s been more of an internal communication point up until relatively recently. So we've indicated that those are the five professions that we're moving forward with generally in that order to–under the RHPA. Recognizing that the  self‑regulation of paramedics was an election commitment by our government, for the reasons that I won't expound upon now, the member will know them, and so they are also moving under the RHPA, both in self-regulation and under the RHPA, with the guidance of Reg Toews.
Mr. Gerrard: There were two other questions which are still awaiting responses, but I'm going to move to my next question, and that is concern over suicides.
      November of last year, Dr. James Bolton, the medical director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Crisis Response Centre, said, and I quote: that the treatment we have for suicidal people in the health system in Manitoba is abysmal. There is no suicide-specific treatment in Manitoba. Imagine if you walked into the emergency room with a broken bone and they said, sorry, we don't have any treatments for broken bones.
      I'm just looking for an update on whether the situation is the same as it was last November, or whether there's been an improvement.
Mr. Goertzen: So I'm now one step behind the member. He'll–probably would put on the record that he feels that I've been one step behind him for a long time, but, on the issue of paramedics and their mental health, so there is a movement to self-regulation, of course, with paramedics. So I would expect that college, once it's fully established, even though there's a transitional council working now, will have more consideration of that.
      The Paramedic Association of Manitoba has chosen to use the proceeds from the paramedic licence-plate sales that was launched in 2017. I was pleased to be at that announcement with the Honourable Ron Schuler?
Mr. Chairperson: No, you can't.
Mr. Goertzen: With the honourable member for St.   Paul and the Minister of Infrastructure (Mr. Schuler) at the launch of the paramedic licence plates. And those resources will be used for the development of programs and resources to support paramedic mental health. And I believe we are looking for additional information, but, if the member wants to launch into another question, because I know his time in truncated, he certainly can.
Insulin Pumps for Adults with Type 1 Diabetes
Mr. Gerrard: Yes, one of the items which I have–has come up frequently as I have been at public meetings in various parts of the province, has been the issue of insulin pumps for type 1 diabetics who are adults. This is clearly a significant benefit for those who want to use the insulin pumps. It stabilizes the diabetes, and it looks like it's going to result in significantly fewer complications, which would mean significantly fewer hospital visits and so on. So I wondered what the status of the support for insulin pumps for type 1 diabetics is going to be under his ministry.
Mr. Goertzen: So the member will know, and I appreciate him bringing up that point, and I've certainly spoken with those who are dealing with type 1 diabetes who are over the age of 18. He'll know that 18 and under, for insulin pumps, is covered in Manitoba, but there has been, you know, a lobbying effort and information effort for those with type 1 diabetes to try to extend the coverage of those insulin pumps to over 18. And while I do genuinely appreciate those concerns and understand, for those who are living with type 1 diabetes, who are over 18, that this is both significant and real. I mean, at this point, you know, I don't have anything to indicate to the member that there's going to be an expansion of that program, but I also don't want to leave him with the impression that, you know, we're not open to hearing more discussions and more ideas about how different programs can be utilized or how different programs can be funded in partnership with other organizations perhaps at a future date.
      So I appreciate him raising the question. It is an important question. I understand the concerns of those who are over 18. It's not lost on us that that's a significant lobby effort, and, you know, where there are potentials to build partnerships in the future, it's certainly something that we would, you know, always explore.
The Meth Crisis in the Island Lakes Area
Mr. Gerrard: Yesterday, we had a number of youth and adults from the Island Lakes area visiting the Legislature very concerned about the meth crisis. Now that the minister's had a little bit more time to think about this situation, I'm–would like to know what the minister is considering for a response to the meth crisis in the Island Lakes area.
Mr. Goertzen: I appreciated the member, along with his colleague from Kewatinook, allowing me to meet with the group. We didn't have a lot of time because we were in the process that we're in now, but I was certainly moved, in talking to the walkers, and I certainly felt, you know, the challenge that they're having in the community. I know they raised a number of issues in that relatively brief period of time that we had. The primary one was about the lack of information that existed within the community on methamphetamine.
      I did, when I returned to my office–had contact made with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba. I   know that they have done community forums in   other parts of the province related to methamphetamine. My understanding, although it's only been 24 hours, is that they are open and interested in doing a forum in that community as well, to provide more information. So I hope to be able to give final word to the member on that relatively shortly, but that–took immediate action on that.
      I will be in contact with the federal minister. That was something that was asked for by the walkers as well, and so we will do that as well, and, of course, we'll look at some of the other concerns that were raised. But, certainly, in the immediate aftermath, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has indicated they are certainly open to doing an information session in the community, as they have done in other communities. So I want to thank the member and his colleagues for raising that and allowing me to meet with the walkers.
Mr. Gerrard: And I want to thank the minister for taking the time to meet with the walkers, and that was very much appreciated. I think one of the other items was whether there could be some screening, using dog sniffers, for example, of people going in–flying into the community as one way of reducing the potential for meth to be more of a problem, and, of course, that could pick up other drugs.
Mr. Goertzen: More appropriately asked in the Estimates of Justice. I don't know that we have dog sniffers within the Department of Health, but I'm sure he'd be open to ask that question.
Mr. Chairperson: The hour being 5 p.m., committee rise.


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