Manitoba’s throne speech draws mixed reviews from health-care professionals

The province's throne speech on Tuesday had several health care promises, prompting a range of reactions, both positive and negative, from health-care professionals.

With COVID-19 still surging across Manitoba, health care was one of the main topics in Tuesday's throne speech.

"The global pandemic is the greatest health care crisis Manitobans have ever faced," said Janice Filmon, Manitoba's lieutenant governor.

"Our government will take action to remove the barriers that are preventing Manitobans from getting the medical care they urgently need."

The speech touched on an effort to hire new nurses, a promise for a task force of front-line workers and to clear the province's surgical backlog.

Darlene Jackson, the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said the speech sounds hopeful, but actions are what matter.

"Manitobans need provincial leadership that plans for a healthy future. Leadership that not only pledges support but follows through," read an email statement to CTV News from Jackson.

"Nurses are exhausted. They are tired of lip service. Promised employment for new graduates is, in truth, a mirage. Any nurse seeking employment with adequate qualifications is already employed. What we need now is realistic and meaningful change before our entire system collapses."

While the throne speech specifically addressed the nursing shortage in the province, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) said it left out many other critical health-care workers.

"Not having mentioned any of the professions we represent is really troubling. It's really concerning," said Bob Moroz, president of MAHCP.

"You can talk about paramedics. You can talk about people that work in ICUs. Our laboratory and diagnostics are in dire shape across the province."

Doctors Manitoba, the organization representing physicians across the province, said the speech also left something to be desired.

"Doctors Manitoba is concerned about the lack of specifics and urgency in terms of the tone of the speech," said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba.

According to Doctors Manitoba, there is currently a backlog of 136,000 surgical and diagnostic procedures in the province.

Thompson said the surgery and diagnostic backlog in the province is leaving Manitobans in pain and suffering.

"I think perhaps the biggest missed opportunity today was the government not making a bold commitment to setting a target date to clear the backlog."

The backlog is an issue Premier Heather Stefanson said the government is already working on.

"As a top priority, we want to make sure all Manitobans have access to health care when they need it," she said. "As such, our government is already working to address the surgical and diagnostic backlog in the health care system."

Premier Stefanson noted more details on how the province is addressing the backlog will be coming soon.