Friday, August 16, 2019

Manitoba Leaders Jockey For Health Care Voters; Seven Oaks ER Closure Not So Heated, Says Tory Hopeful

With a bit of a target on his back, Liberal leader Dougald Lamont matched the governing PC's and opposition NDP in holding a morning press announcement Thursday in the sunny beauty of summery St. Boniface. 

After both parties launched hospital/health care promises in front of his riding's hospital on Wednesday, Lamont countered the next day with some coherent policy ideas to improve mental health services in the province. 

The groundwork has been laid over the past 10 years or so by Dr. Jon Gerrard when he was leader, and Lamont smartly took up the cause. 

One of the notable aspects is to include child (under 18) mental health assessment costs to flag and treat behavioral and learning disabilities as a listed service under Medicare. The 2-3 year wait time for kids to get evaluated in unacceptable and most often puts kids behind their peers permanently. Just ask any school librarian in rural and remote Manitoba, if there are any still being funded. 

Lamont also pledged an improved "access to psychological therapist program", based on a UK model. These are both great ideas, notwithstanding costs, staffing, and the other input factors. Here's the video clip:

The NDP started kicking at Lamont's door by holding the first presser in the riding this week, in La Verendrye Park, across Tache St. from St Bonifice Hospital. But the pitch handed leader Wab Kinew by the orange braintrust was far beneath the weightier expectations of voters and pundits when it comes to the subject of health care priorities. 

Relieving the cost of parking near and at hospitals - a genuine issue in Winnipeg - is still only a bantamweight problem in the big picture and came off as an underwhelming use of the media's attention, especially with Premier Brian Pallister scheduled for the same park withi the hour. The cost of parking, and overtime tickets, when families are stressed out would be a decent part of package of "Five Ways The NDP Will Halt You Being Ripped Off", and the NDP should have found some other gouging issues of fees or permits or fines to champion with it. 

At 10 AM that same day, the Blue Crew set up a podium for Pallister to go big, with a $2B over 4 years spending program highlighted by a new ER for the highly stressed St. Boniface Hospital. 

New personal care home beds, improved diagnostic testing equipment, and more generous grants to hospitals and doctor billings was also on the menu. The media probed how much of the pledge was truly new provincial money compared to incoming increases in federal health care dollars, but Pallister refuted the theory, claiming the feds percentage was based on them having lowering the base amount in the first place, so they were just playing catch-up at a laggardly pace. 

Last weekend, I dropped by the opening of a PC campaign office for a parachute candidate in the new riding of McPhillips, trying to hold onto a seat with the governing Conservatives. 

Shannon Martin has migrated his campaigning machine from Morris to a unique hybrid riding with a chunk of city (mostly Garden City) and an exurban northern half, with common priorities for both of trust and taxation. 

The recent closure of the ER at the Seven Oaks Hospital has been controversial but Martin says that at the doorstep, while "the change has come up ... once you direct them the website, understanding urgent vs emergency ... (we're) ensuring the wait lists have been dealt with", allowing the "significant transition has not been without its stress", before taking a shot at the contradictory positions of Kinew and his erstwhile candidate in Fort Garry, Mark Wasyliw, about the conversion of the ER at the Victoria Hospital.  Here's the video: 


We know we're making waves because of our series on discarded needles and failed harm reduction practices in Winnipeg, and our look into meth and drug treatment programs, found here and here and also here. Plus this look at depressingly unacceptable Winnipeg Police crimefighting results.

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