Right in the centre - Budgets, results and realities aligning


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

The reality of balancing the provincial budget is looming large these days. The budget was announced on Tuesday, but several days ahead of that, the PC government made an announcement that may have huge implications. They announced that there would only be three hospitals in Winnipeg with acute emergency services. Amazingly enough, there was only a muted response from the opposition and among the general public, there was a bit of shock but also a resigned realization that having six emergency rooms in a city the size of Winnipeg isn’t sustainable.

What was very telling is that the first words out of the union leaders’ mouths were about job security and then as an after thought, they said they were concerned about the patients.

It was interesting that health officials, some of them the same ones that had served for years under the NDP came out in favour of the move. Wonder what they had been telling the NDP for years? Of course, listening to analysis or common sense was not a major trait of the NDP. They, and the public service unions, preferred to keep on spending in spite of all the indications that rising health spending was no longer sustainable.

The NDP decried the closure of some ERs, saying people would now have to travel 20 minutes to get to an ER. Wow! Twenty whole minutes. Wonder where those same people were when 20 rural ERs were closed over the years. The NDP and the unions didn’t seem to have much objection when ERs closed in Gladstone and Rivers and McCreary. They didn’t have much to say when ERs closed temporarily in places like Killarney, Minnedosa and Virden. They didn’t say a word when it became common practice that the only place you could deliver a baby in South-western Manitoba was Neepawa and Brandon. Funny thing, eh?

Now the people of Winnipeg have to endure what rural Manitoba has been enduring for 10-15 years. No wonder the protest is muted so far. It would seem, at first glance that the move to shift responsibilities for various levels of care needs has been long overdue. It would seem that the change may well be a very good thing for sustainability. In addition, Winnipeg has a strong ambulance service and quiet frankly, if you are in tough shape medically for whatever reason, you may be better off in the care of a paramedic crew who have lots of experience than you might be at an emergency room that is under staffed.

When it comes to staffing, there has been a problem for years. Every time you talk to someone who is responsible for scheduling, they will tell you it is tough to arrange shifts. Willing and conscientious health care workers are taking double shifts and 12 hour shifts. Meanwhile, the schedulers are hearing every excuse in the books. An immediate audit should be taken of all the absences in the last six months and the stated excuses. Maybe there is no story there, but from all the absence excuses I have heard over many years, I think some people need to decide if they really want their job or not. A job, especially a health care job, needs to take priority over some of the stated absence excuses I have heard about.

There are rumblings that the PC Manitoba government is planning a carbon tax. That should warm the cockles of the hearts at the NDP party, the Winnipeg Free Press, the CBC and the unions. I promised one of my political friends that should carbon tax be implemented I will keep an open mind. For about five minutes! And then it had better be a good argument or I will oppose it. A carbon tax is utter nonsense. We don’t have a carbon problem in Manitoba. We hardly have carbon problem in Canada but we seem hell-bent on punishing good environmental behaviour with a carbon tax. It’s not likely to be carbon tax, it will be a deficit reduction tax and as such, we need to be honest about that.