Manitoba

Impacts of health cuts hitting women 'every single time': Theresa Oswald

The director of the Women’s Health Clinic and former NDP health minister says she’s concerned about the multiple impacts changes to the province’s health system will have on women.

Women's Health Clinic director and ex-health minister concerned about cuts

Theresa Oswald is the director of the Women's Health Clinic and a former Manitoba NDP health minister. (Steve Lambert/Canadian Press)

Recent changes to the province's health system have a disproportionate impact on women, says a former Manitoba NDP health minister and director of the Women's Health Clinic.

Theresa Oswald wrote in a blog post that cuts to services such as lactation consultants and the mature women's health clinic, as well as privatizing physiotherapy and modifying supports for affordable housing, all add up to worse health outcomes for women, particularly those living in poverty.

"One decision alone, perhaps not the worst thing in the world, but we're starting to see a cumulative effect of some of these decisions that I don't think fall in the right column for women," she said in an interview with CBC's Information Radio.

The Progressive Conservative government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority have announced numerous changes to the health system. The WRHA has a mandate from the province to cut $83 million from this year's budget.

The changes include closing the urgent care centre at Misericordia Health Centre, converting two emergency rooms to urgent care centres and closing a third emergency room.

The province is also moving out-patient occupational and physiotherapy out of hospitals and into private clinics, cutting recreational therapists at Health Sciences Centre's mental health program, and shuttering all but one of the city's QuickCare clinics.

The work at Women's Health Clinic has focused on how various impacts of the changes intersect. "Some of these decisions are landing on women every single time," said Oswald.

Oswald said the Women's Health Clinic is willing to pick up some of the work. "We can absorb some of that staff and with modest investment we can pick up some of that of that work. And we're prepared to do that. We're not the enemy. We want to help because we're focused on those clients."

When governments are looking to balance budgets, often the first services that get cut involve prevention, which Oswald said is short-sighted. By investing in supports that enable people to have health diets, access to recreation, affordable housing, and parenting supports, the province can avoid greater costs down the road from acute care.

"Focus on prevention and much of this stuff takes care of itself," she said.

Oswald was the health minister for the Manitoba NDP government from 2006 to 2013.

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