Wab Kinew pushing for more robust health care system in province 

By Chelsea Kemp

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Finishing off their three-day caucus retreat in Brandon, NDP leader Wab Kinew marked his last day in the Wheat City demanding health care  cuts in Westman come to an end.

Kinew said his time in Brandon  served as a chance to connect and listen to residents, and the top  concern aired was health-care coverage in the province.

“One of  the things that jumps out over and over, again is the cuts to health  care,” Kinew said. “There continues to be an urgent health-care crisis  and it comes down to the staffing cuts that we have seen. That really  needs to be addressed.”

Health-care cuts continue to impact the  Westman region, he said.

Nurses are facing incredible stress due to the  pressures they face, and the Brandon Regional Health Centre is not  immune to these forces.

He added rural Manitobans have also faced  increasingly long wait times for ambulances. This experience has been  compounded by paramedic services transporting people to health-care  facilities outside the city.

“When those firefighter/paramedics  are out on the road transporting patients they can’t respond to calls  here in Brandon _ that just further aggravates the situation,” Kinew  said.

In August The Sun reported Praire Mountain Health had only  two-thirds the number of needed paramedics working. In some areas of the  province, Manitoba Association of Healthcare Professionals members have  told their union that there are 24-hour periods where 10 to 15  ambulances are out of service at one time. The Sun also reported Prairie  Mountain Health spent approximately $24 million to hire nurses from  private agencies to fill staffing vacancies at health-care facilities in  the region from January 2019 to May 2021.

The NDP is working to  address these health-care issues, Kinew said. A key part of their  strategy will include including utilizing Brandon University and  Assiniboine Community College to train people to work in the health-care  sector.

Kinew added a short-term solution to alleviate health  care pressures could include offering financial incentives to get nurses  into high-priority areas and address the EMS wait situation.

“You  have nurses who, maybe, left recently because they’re stressed out and  they’re getting mandatory overtime. Their skills are still sharp, they  still know how to work in our health-care system,” Kinew said. “If we  provide a financial incentive we can bring them back.”

Recruitment  of health-care professionals is also key to creating a robust  health-care system, he added, and this will involve looking at other  provinces and embracing immigration to fill staffing shortages.

“We’re  not going to fix this crisis overnight, it’s going to take years in  some cases to fix the damage that these cuts have caused, but we have to  start now,” Kinew said.

During the caucus retreat, the party toured the former Brandon Indian Residential School site.

“No  matter where I go, what I’ll be doing is remembering all that was lost,  but also honouring the resilience of the residential school survivors  and what they have to teach us,” Kinew said. “I hope Brandonites and  people in Westman can use Sept. 30 as an opportunity to reflect, to  learn and to commit to making sure we live up that phrase, `Every child  matter.”’

The province has a strong role in strengthing  relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, Kinew said.  He would like to see a task force put in place to ensure the site of the  former residential school is properly commemorated while addressing the  impacts of intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities.

The  caucus held a barbecue meet and greet Thursday at the Riverbank  Discovery Centre to connect with Brandonites. Kinew said he spoke with  some people who voted for the federal NDP party for the first time in  the 2021 election.

“I think that they did a lot of good, and for  us, we’re the provincial NDP and we’re working hard to win the support  of people in Brandon and Westman and Parkland and certainly a rising  tide lifts all boats, but we can’t take anything for granted,” Kinew  said. “It’s up to us now to work really hard to help people understand  why our plan for health care, why our plan for the province, our plan to  grow the economy is the right one.”

Chelsea Kemp  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brandon Sun . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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