The Manitoba New Democrats are accusing Premier Brian Pallister’s government of secrecy, saying it is making massive changes to the province’s health-care system without first releasing the reports it’s basing those decisions on.
At a news conference Wednesday, Health critic Matt Wiebe called on Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen to immediately release the most recent of these reports, one prepared by the Wait Time Reduction Task Force. That report was supposed to be completed by June 30.
“I’d like to hear from the government about where this report is at,” Wiebe said.
Goertzen said the report will be released in the fall, around the same time the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will begin closing three emergency rooms in Winnipeg. The plan is described as the most sweeping health-care change in the province in a generation.
Manitobans, Wiebe said, should have an opportunity to see the same information government has access to before ERs close, and as the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority looks for savings to cut $83 million from its budget.
The Progressive Conservatives appointed members to the Wait Time Reduction Task Force in late March, ahead of a series of public hearings. One of the key areas the committee reviewed was the state of Manitoba’s emergency rooms.
Goertzen said the plan to close emergency rooms came out of a report that was made public, prepared by Dr. David Peachey. The Nova Scotia-based researcher with Health Intelligence Inc. recommended Winnipeg convert three of its emergency rooms into urgent-care centres.
Beginning in October, Winnipeg will go further than that, turning emergency departments at the Victoria and Seven Oaks hospitals into 24/7 urgent-care centres, while closing Concordia’s emergency department altogether.
The Misericordia Health Centre’s 24-hour urgent-care centre will be closed and converted to a community intravenous therapy clinic.
Along with the wait time committee’s report, the NDP are also calling on the government to release two reports prepared by KPMG — one looking at the province’s fiscal state, the other looking at the health-care system.
“What we are seeing now is a pattern of secrecy by this government,” Wiebe said.
Goertzen said the KPMG reports included advice to cabinet and were meant to remain in confidence.
The Opposition says the cost of the three reports yet to be made public is $1.4 million.