Thursday May 16th, I brought forward two examples of very long waits for hip and knee surgery in Manitoba. As Rhonda Grist makes clear, there needs to be a maximum wait time of 6 months for hip or knee replacement surgery. Waiting longer results in joint difficulties happening in other joints and increasing health problems over the long term. My questions and the government's responses are below:
Hip and Knee Surgery - Wait Time Recommendations
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I table a copy of a letter from Rhonda Grist to the Premier. She says that she agrees with the CIHI recommendations that the maximum waiting time for a hip replacement should be six months. As she says, based on her experience of waiting 11 months, more than six months causes harm to the other joints in our body. In her case, she says, after having to use a walker for 10 months before surgery and then another three to four months after surgery, her knees are no longer manageable. She says the longer waiting time is a false economy.
When will the government make the changes so that six months is the maximum waiting time for hip replacement surgery as CIHI recommends?
Hon. Cameron Friesen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Well, the member is quite right that there are too many people in Manitoba who have been on long wait-lists for years and years and years. It is exactly the rationale we have in place for transforming our health-care system to be able to reduce wait times. And while we sympathize with anyone who's waiting for those necessary surgeries, I would remind that member that only recently our government invested another $5.3 million to purchase an additional 1,000 hip and knee surgeries and 2,000 cataract surgeries, surgeries that are right now taking place.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, I table information showing that the recent wait times are among the worst in Canada. Rhonda Grist writes, and I quote: “You–she's referring to the Premier–you mentioned that your government was having some difficulty getting the doctors to work as they were away on vacation in warm places.” Rhonda Grist says: “Certainly your statement doesn't reflect the attitude of the orthopedic surgeons.” She says at her first meeting with her surgeon, he stated he was finished his surgeries by 1 p.m. every day, and he was most unhappy about that. He wanted longer hours and although he has received them since, I ask the Premier to apologize to the many hard-working doctors who he has offended with his comments.
Mr. Friesen: The member for River Heights actually makes our point. The purpose of the Province's clinical and preventative services plan that is going on in the province and reporting back to government this spring, is exactly for the purpose of doing system planning at a coherent level and not a site level. It is exactly our commitment to this goal that will in future help us to plan better, help us to make full use of system resources, help medical practitioners work to the fullest scope of practice. I thank the member for making our point that a change for the better in Manitoba health care is coming and that the focus all this is better health care sooner for all Manitobans.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: Yes, Madam Speaker, the government has been promising that for more than three years, and not much has changed. Madam Speaker, Mr. Harbans Singh Brar needs knee replacement surgery. He has been immobilized by his current condition and the pain. He's been told that he will have to wait a total of 15 months from the time he first got an appointment with his surgeon until his surgery, which would mean seven more months from today to December. The wait times should be no longer than six months, as CIHI recommends. Instead, waiting times for knee surgery in Manitoba are among the longest in Canada, as a document I table showed.
Why is the Pallister government trying to blame doctors instead of acting as it should to work with doctors to reduce the waiting times?
Mr. Friesen: Madam Speaker, the member can't have it both ways. He's calling for shorter wait times but he's part of a party, federally, that has made cuts to health care across the board. I was at the meetings, along with the member for Steinbach (Mr. Goertzen), where the federal government said there will be less of an incremental increase each year for health care. At one time, that member knows, the federal government was a 50 per cent partner in the provision of health care in the provinces; in Manitoba right now 18 per cent and going to be a hole of $2 billion over the course of 10 years. If he's standing up for health care, have him pick up the phone, call his federal government and tell them to reinstate the funding for Manitoba.
Minister Friesen in his reply forgets about the large amount of funding ($2,23 billion in 2019-2020) which the federal government is providing in equalization and the fact that it was the Harper government which slowed the growth of the health transfers from 6% a year to 3%. He also forgets about the fact that his government underspent their health care budget by about $240 million last year. He also forgets that it is the provincial government’s responsibility to manage health care and that the province, in three years, has not done its job when it comes to health care. As a further note, federal transfers to Manitoba increased this year by $218 million (Equalization transfer), by $101 million (Canada Health Transfer) with a total increase of $326 million. Overall this is an increase of $7.2 %. And yet all the Pallister government can do is complain.