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Liberals, NDP make health-care pitches in lead up to Manitoba’s fall election

Health care is sure to be a top issue with many Manitoba voters in the upcoming provincial election, and on Friday it got the attention of two opposition parties vying for power.

The Manitoba Liberals and NDP made separate election promises focused on health care, a sector which has been burdened with high wait times for care, staffing vacancies and overworked professionals.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, speaking on the legislature grounds while flanked by several party candidates, unveiled several planks from his party’s health-care platform.

If the Liberals are elected on Oct. 3, Lamont pledged new incentives to improve how health-care professionals are paid. Family physicians, nurse practitioners and all health professionals who support their work in clinics will be eligible for the new top-up. The extra pay will be reserved for those working in teams, in rural and remote areas and spending time with patients with complex needs.

Lamont estimated the new payout would be in the range of $125 million to $175 million annually.

The Liberals would also create more physician training seats and build a new lecture hall at Health Sciences Centre to accommodate additional students.

A man stands behind a podium, while he's joined by several people behind and beside him.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont is joined by several of his party’s candidates on Friday as he announces several aspects of their health-care platform. (Ian Froese/CBC)

If elected, the party would revive decade-old discussions to build a medical school in Brandon, Man. The Liberals say the new school would be a campus of the University of Manitoba and would focus on training people to work in rural and northern areas of the province.

There’s also a commitment to ensure health professionals with international credentials are quickly certified to work in the province.

“I’ve heard in the last week of doctors who moved here, who have been rejected by the health system and have now moved to Ottawa or Quebec or B.C. where they can actually work,” Lamont said, adding he’s aware of two French-speaking physicians who recently left because they couldn’t practice in Manitoba.

Lamont promised a fully-costed Liberal platform would be released before the writ, expected in either late August or early September, drops.

NDP promises medical school expansion

Meanwhile, the NDP committed to expanding the footprint of University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus in Winnipeg, which leader Wab Kinew estimated would cost $150 million, should they be elected.

The bigger medical school would have more room to train additional doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, Kinew told reporters on the campus grounds. 

“We’re going to train the next generation and we’re going to dramatically expand both the capacity and the ability to train those future health-care workers.”

Kinew wouldn’t estimate how many additional students would be trained to be doctors or nurse practitioners, adding his party would consult with stakeholders on what’s needed.

A man speaks behind a podium, while flanked by several fellow NDP MLAs, candidates and medical students.
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks about his party’s pledge to expand the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus to support the training of future nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants. (Ian Froese/CBC)

He said an NDP government would have a target of eventually creating 300 additional nursing seats, which is roughly equivalent to the number of nurses the Winnipeg area lost from 2016 to 2022, according to a freedom of information request obtained by the party.

We’d “work toward that 300 net new seat target on the nursing side to help repair the damage that the PC’s have caused,” Kinew said.

“But one of the important things that we’ve got to understand, and this comes from nurses themselves, is that not only have we lost nurses from the front-lines under Heather Stefanson’s time as health minister and premier, but we’ve also lost the nurse educators.”

An NDP government would build up the number of educators while the new facility is under construction, he said. 

Other party commitments underwhelming: Tories

The Progressive Conservative government said both announcements pale in comparison to the work the Tories are already doing on health care. 

This includes a record amount of nearly $8 billion on health-care this year. The financial commitment includes $812 million in capital upgrades.

This week, the Tories announced it would double funding to its health-care recruitment and retention efforts with an additional $200 million.

A recent poll from Angus Reid, however, suggests many Manitobans aren’t satisfied with the PC’s handling of health care. Only 17 per cent of survey respondents approved of the way the Tory government has steered the file.

The Angus Reid poll surveyed a representative, randomized sample of 515 Manitoba adults from May 30 to June 3. A sample of this size has the equivalent of a four-percentage-point margin of error, with a 95-per-cent certainty it is accurate.

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