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Concerns about the quality of care in our health care system.

In a debate on Bill 233 which prevents the imposition of health care premiums in Manitoba, I commented on the bill and raised concerns about the Conservative government's handling of health care in our province. 

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I rise to put a few comments on this resolution. Manitoba Liberals are in support of this resolution and don't believe that health-care premiums provide an advantage or a benefit and they certainly are a cost to individuals. And so we support this resolution and thank the member for Minto (Mr.  Swan) for bringing this forward.
      I do want to make a few comments on the importance of having quality health care in our province. I received a call yesterday from a woman who–she and her family have had quite a lot of experience with our health-care system over the last number of years. And she commented to me that though there continue to be exceptional individuals in the health-care system who are still very kind and compassionate, that what she has observed, since the Conservative government was elected, is a sea change. And that sea change has been to a system where people are more rushed, people are less caring, people are less compassionate and they are caught up sometimes–because they are short of staff–with the situation, which has in some areas become quite chaotic. And the health-care system is suffering. And I would caution the members opposite to pay attention, to make sure that our system continues to be kind and compassionate, or returns to being kind and compassionate after the chaos of the changes that they have instituted.
      For varied reasons, her family has seen more delays. I won't go into this. I will mention that this woman was almost in tears as she talked about her experiences with health care under the Conservative government.
      I would add to this and go further to talk of the importance of having adequate staff. It's very difficult to have a really kind and compassionate health-care system when there are not enough staff. We have all heard about, because they've been discussed in the last little while, situation in St. Boniface where there's not been sufficient staff and so the result has been a dramatic increase in the number of mandatory overtimes.
      When people who have worked a shift are told that, sorry, you can't go home, you can't rest, you can't be with your family, you can't attend to commitments that you've already made, you must be here for another eight hours–these sorts of mandatory overtimes are really very problematic and they are a sign of a health-care system which is not being organized, managed well, is not functioning well.
      And the nurses who are mandated to have these extra overtime hours–at the end of the second shift they will be often very tired, exhausted. One of the lessons that people need to remember in health care is that it's really important that the caregivers–now, whether that's family caregivers, whether that's health-care professionals, but that caregivers–it is important that their health is looked after. And part of that–and much of that we leave to individuals.
      But, certainly, we need a system which considers the health of the caregivers as well as the health of those who need it, and if we don't look after the health of the caregivers first, then it's very difficult for us to be looking after the people who need help adequately and well.
      One must remember that, in an airplane, you always are told to make sure that if you're the adult and you're travelling with a child or somebody who is–has a disability and can't help themselves, get–look after your oxygen mast first. And then you can make sure that your child or the person that you're caring for has their oxygen mask looked after. If you do it the other way around, it's a potential disaster.
      So what we need to make sure is that we have much more of a focus on the health of caregivers, we don't forget how important it is, if we're going to have really good, kind and compassionate care, that we manage human resources well and that we're thinking about the health of the caregivers first and the health of the people who need it second–and very importantly. But these two go together, and it is vital that we're making sure we're looking after both, because the second can't come if you don't look after the first.
* (10:40)
      We've seen this not only in St. Boniface, but we've seen this in other areas. We saw this within the last year at the Lions Prairie Manor in Portage la Prairie. And one of the major concerns there has been how things have been staffed, the consistency of the staff, because when the staff is consistent, they get to know the individuals at the Lions Prairie Manor, and they're much better able to tailor the care that's provided to the individual needs of the individuals.
      If you are constantly shifting staff–and this was one of the problems at the Lions Prairie Manor, and there was a big report on this, that if you're constantly shifting staff, they can't get to know the individuals they're caring for in the same way and in a way that really is optimum for care.
      So, again, an emphasis on making sure that the health-care staff, the health-care professionals, are looked after well, that our human resources are cared for, because this is a fundamental aspect of having a good system which works.
      So I support this resolution. I thank the member for bringing this forward, and I'm glad to see that the government also supports this resolution.

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