Why is the Pallister government so enamoured about bringing peole from St. Elsewhere - including agency nurses.
Wednesday May 30, I asked the Minister of Health and the Premier why they put so much effort into bringing people from outside their local community or from outside the province to work in Manitoba when we have people in our own province who could do the job well. My questions and the Minister and Premier's responses are below (from Hansard).
Health-Care Services - Use of Agency Nurses
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, when the NDP government wanted to change health care, they hired someone from Nova Scotia. When the Pallister government wanted to change mental health in Manitoba, they hired Dr. Rush from Toronto.
One of the most consistent concerns raised with me at community after community in Manitoba is the Pallister government's practice of hiring higher cost agency nurses–sometimes doctors, too–from elsewhere instead of supporting local nurses and building local capacity.
Why is the Minister of Health so enamoured about bringing in people from St. Elsewhere?
Madam Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): I didn't watch St. Elsewhere. I did watch Saint Tender, and we tender things, Madam Speaker. We put out a call across the country, it's called a tender. And we asked people to come forward and give us their best pitch about who would be best to look for a mental health and addictions strategy, and Dr. Rush won the tender.
Now, I know that the former government didn't tender for Dr. Peachey–and I won't comment on that because I appreciate the work that he did–but we actually believe in tendering, Madam Speaker. [interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order.
The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, in Grandview I was told that the Prairie Mountain Health region spent $7.26 million last year primarily to hire nurse locums, usually agency nurses.
Yet while a local nurse knows the needs of individuals in a personal-care home, agency nurses from elsewhere on one-day or one-night shifts don't have the same personal knowledge.
Agency nurses usually get higher salaries, often get hotel expenses and usually get travel expenses to and from the community, including, I understand, a taxi from Winnipeg to Grandview.
Why is the minister operating a system which spends so much money on agency nurses when training and employing locally is so possible?
Mr. Goertzen: Well, this is actually an important issue, and the issue of agency nurses is being looked at by Shared Health Manitoba, which is being chaired by Dr. Brock Wright, a Manitoban. And he is looking into the issue of the services around Manitoba and trying to ensure there were–they're not just co-ordinated, but issues where there are things like agency nurses or overtime where it doesn't have to be expended in that way, Madam Speaker, that can be provided in a better way, a lower cost way and a more predictable way for patients.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: In Portage La Prairie we heard that because agency nurses get paid more, some local nurses who work locally are also on an agency list. I was told that sometimes when a nurse who is scheduled to work locally on a given day gets a call to work elsewhere as an agency nurse, he or she may sometimes take the agency job because it pays more.
The result is her local shift becomes open and the local institution has to bring in another nurse, sometimes on overtime, perhaps even an agency nurse, to fill in the local vacancy created when a local nurse chooses an agency job.
Why is the system putting a greater priority on agency nurses than on local nurses?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): The member began his first preamble by making some vague reference to the problems of asking for advice, Madam Speaker. Asking advisors for advice is something that I think is a normal course of action for prudent managers, not only of their own finances but in government as well, to seek outside advice, as we have done, as the previous administration did.
They didn't listen to the advice, Madam Speaker, and we are and we're acting on it, but perhaps we would have a better country if the federal Liberal government would have listened to Canadians before it decided to cut health-care transfers to the provinces, or if it had listened to some expert before it decided to campaign and call all small-business people tax evaders and jack up small-business tax rates.
Perhaps we'd have a better country if they wouldn't have sped into the process of legalizing cannabis and trying to promote its availability without doing the necessary studies and, most importantly, Madam Speaker, without doing the necessary listening.
We'll continue to listen. We'll work with experts and advisors. We'll strengthen the province where previous administrations chose to weaken it instead.