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Mid-Pandemic, Pallister Announces More Health Care Upheaval, Less Scrutiny

Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB - The Pallister Government's decision to proceed with yet another major health care overhaul in the middle of Code Red shows that the PCs are still focused on cost cutting, union-busting and avoiding responsibility, instead of focusing on the pandemic and the vaccine rollout.

The PCs announced they are moving mental health, AFM and Cadham Labs under "Shared Health," the new, fourth level of health care bureaucracy created by the Pallister PCs. The other levels are Manitoba Health, Hospitals, and Regional Health Authorities (RHA). The third level of bureaucracy, RHAs, was created by the PCs in the 1990s.

Lamont said it is clear that, by deciding to put out a press release on a day when the eyes of the world are turned to the Inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, that the PCs want to avoid scrutiny of their announcement.

"Instead of being focused on the pandemic, economic recovery, and a vaccine plan, the PCs are still promising more and more health care upheaval," said Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface. "Now, people working in mental health and addictions are going to have to worry if they will lose their jobs, or lose all their collective agreements in a pandemic. It's pointless and heartless."

Lamont said the transition to Shared Health from Manitoba may sound minor, but it has major consequences for the health system. More than a thousand people may face job instability or have to change their unions, resulting in more tension and anxiety.

The biggest problem, Lamont said, is that more and more decisions are being moved out of the Legislature and into the hands of unelected bureaucrats who aren't subject to public scrutiny.

As a matter of routine, MLAs have the opportunity to ask direct questions of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Crown Corporations, and the Chairs of Crown Corporation Boards in Legislative committees, Question Period and Estimates.

Despite being responsible for over $6-billion a year in spending, by far the largest item in the provincial budget, the boards of Shared Health and RHAs cannot be questioned in this way.

"The PCs and the NDP have set up a health care system where they can blame the bureaucracy, but the bureaucracy never has to answer questions in the Legislature," said Lamont. "The PCs are now going even further, stripping elected officials of oversight and the ability to shape policy. It's bad for health care, it's bad for patients, and it's bad for democracy."

Lamont reiterated his party's policy that that Shared Health and RHAs should be reabsorbed back into Manitoba Health, with regional representation and empowering community and local hospitals instead.


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