Manitoba releases blueprint for next phase of health care overhaul

By Kelly Geraldine Malone THE CANADIAN PRESS WINNIPEG
November 29, 2019
Written by By Kelly Geraldine Malone THE CANADIAN PRESS WINNIPEG
The Manitoba government has released a plan for the next phase in an overhaul of health care that it says will tackle challenges in rural and remote areas. Health Minister Cameron Friesen says medical care for decades has been overly complex, poorly organized and not getting the right results.

"We believe that a better, more co-ordinated, more sustainable health-care system is finally within reach,'' he said Friday. The five-year plan is to shift focus from hospitals to the community care, Friesen said. That means more help in communities, at home and significantly less travel to Winnipeg to get treatment.

The province has committed $250 million to support the plan, he said. There are to be four main categories of care _ local, district, intermediate and provincial. Officials said they need to speak with communities before making decisions such as rural emergency room closures.

"We must make changes to how and where we deliver care across the province if we are going to improve access, equality and equity,'' said Lanette Siragus, Manitoba's chief nursing officer.

The plan doesn't include many details, but suggests the first steps will involve increasing capacity in Brandon. There is also to be investment in digital health and virtual care. The Progressive Conservative government received major pushback on the first phase of its health-care overhaul, which resulted in the closure of some Winnipeg emergency rooms and an increased emphasis on urgent care centres.

Polling leading up to September's provincial election, won by the Tories, showed health was the top issue for voters. Friesen said while the overhaul has not been easy, positive results are starting to come. Despite a national trend of increasing wait times, Manitoba's have remained stable.

"We believe we are on the right track.''

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