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PCs Must Create Health Equity Fund to Cover Travel Costs For Patients Who Need Care

Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberals say that it is time to admit the PCs have broken Manitoba's health care system and that an emergency plan to cope with a backlog of over 152,000 surgeries and procedures needs to be rolled out now.

"We need to be absolutely clear about the crisis we are in. Over the next 12 months, the PCs need to rebuild the public system and if people can't get the care they need in Manitoba, we need to make sure they can afford to get it somewhere else, or people are going to die on waiting lists," said Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface and Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party.

Manitoba Liberals say the PCs need to implement five measures:

1. A plan to restore Manitoba's capacity to care for its own in the public health system within 12 months.

2. Manitobans who need procedures during the 12-month rebuilding period should be offered the option of travelling to other provinces for care or as a last-ditch measure, the U.S.

3. The PCs must create a "health equity fund" that will cover costs of travel for patients and family members who cannot otherwise afford to travel.

4. Lift the cap on the number of hip and knee replacements and eye surgeries that can be performed in a given year so that surgical teams in Manitoba can address the backlog.

5. "Truth in Reporting" on Wait Times. Currently, many wait times are defined as the time between a surgeon scheduling a procedure and the procedure itself - usually a few weeks, whereas real-world wait times are in the months or years. More accurate reporting would be from the time a problem is identified to when it is resolved.

The Manitoba Liberal Plan echoes policies put in place by the Doer NDP government in 1999. Following a decade of cuts under the Filmon PCs, the Manitoba NDP briefly paid to send Manitobans to other provinces and the U.S. for treatment.

"It is inhumane to ask Manitobans to pay the price in suffering - or worse - while we all wait for the PCs to fix what they broke," said Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface. "We need to rebuild our public system for the future, because that is the only long-term solution. In the meantime, we know we are going to be sending people out of province. We have to have a Health Equity Fund make sure that everyone can afford to get that care."

Currently, while Manitoba occasionally covers the costs of procedures in other provinces, they very rarely cover the cost of travel or a place to stay during and after surgery.

Paulette Carriere-Dupont and Jacques Dupont agree. Jacques Dupont, a Winnipeg resident, had been on a waiting list for a heart procedure in Manitoba for 21-22 months when in October, 2021 he travelled to Ottawa for diagnostic tests and a heart procedure. The tests showed much more serious surgery was required. Dupont and his wife stayed in Ottawa for three weeks. The cost of the procedures were covered, but the cost of travel and accommodations was not.

"We can't get the surgery without the flight. If you are going to pay for the surgery, you have to pay for the flight. We don't want anyone to turn down a surgery they need because they think they can't afford it," said Carriere-Dupont.

Manitoba Liberal Health Critic Dr. Jon Gerrard said that lifting the cap on surgeries is a critical part of clearing the backlog.

For decades, the PCs and NDP have created longer waiting lists by setting a quota on the number of procedures that government will pay for. This is the simplest and most straightforward way to rebuild capacity here in Manitoba - stop turning patients away.

"The reality is that in Manitoba, our waitlists are made worse because there is a quota on the number of hip and knee replacements, or eye surgeries, that the government and regional health authorities allow doctors to perform in the public system," said Gerrard. "The PCs and NDP built a health care system that creates backlogs. We will not be able to clear the backlog without lifting the cap."

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