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Analysis

Pallister Government’s Health Cuts Help Drive ER Closures, Service Cuts, More To Come?

The Pallister Government's Third ER closure Became Official, Monday

Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks Emergency Room facility officially transitioned to an Urgent Care facility — less equipped to deal with life threatening situations, yesterday. It’s part of the Progressive Conservative government’s hunt for “efficiencies,” that’s meant years of healthcare freezes and cuts — and recent budget figures suggest more downsizing and consolidating is coming.

As PressProgress reported previously, since Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister took office, the government has insisted on finding “efficiencies” in the province’s healthcare system. Three years on, the government has closed three ER facilities and sparked mass protests, while recent assessments found patient care has worsened and will probably continue to suffer.   

And, health care workers have spoken out. For example, nurses at Grace Hospital, one of the key sites effected, say they saw a 32% increase in overtime hours in 2018. Meanwhile, critical care nurses worked 71% more overtime hours. Some even say they’re afraid to go to work.

The government’s recent spending habits suggest more reductions and stress for staff are coming. This year, the government budgeted about $100 million less for health care than the previous year.  The 2018 budget, meanwhile, included an increase in health spending of less than 1%. That didn’t even cover the 2.24% inflation calculated by the Bank of Canada.

Here’s a round up of health care spending in the province, since 2016 ⁠— the year Pallister formed government:

Additionally, reductions have been pushed onto health authorities. In 2017-2018, for example, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, was told by the province to find $83 million in savings. Later, CBC reported that an internal WRHA document revealed a plan to find another $36 million in savings to be realized, in part, by “clinical consolidation.”

Further, across the province, CBC News reported, between 2017-2018 ⁠— the most recent year for which staffing data is available ⁠— the number of nurses employed by the province decreased by 550.

Spokespeople for Cameron Friesen, the province’s Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living, did not respond to PressProgress’ request for comment.

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