PC government creates Transformation Management Office to operate on health system

The newly formed Transformation Management Office will implement sweeping changes to Manitoba's health care system. But many of those reforms are not known by the public.

Opposition calls it an office of spin doctoring

Big changes are coming to the health-care system, to be implemented by the TMO. (CBC News)

The newly formed Transformation Management Office will carry the ball as the Progressive Conservative government makes substantive changes to how health care is delivered in Manitoba.

The TMO will "oversee the broader transformation and strategic realignment of the provincial health care system," according to a release by the province.

Premier Brian Pallister says it will be a link between the various stakeholders in the vast health care field.

Premier Brian Pallister says releasing some recommendations on health care changes would 'frighten' some people for no reason. (CBC News)

"I see this as a bridge among various health care entities and agencies to help them work together with one another that hasn't existed before," Pallister told reporters minutes after the government made the announcement.

"Reforms and changes are needed. The status quo isn't working — it's not delivering services in a timely matter," Pallister said.

The creation of the office was something the public and the press could never have known the government was planning. It was one of many recommendations in a review of health care done by KPMG, a consultancy.

The government has declined to release the report, despite Pallister and Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen promising repeatedly they would make it public.

Pallister was pressed for details of what kind of recommendations the TMO would work towards implementing, but provided few details.

Nor would the premier relate even what might be on the list of possibilities. He says that might worry staff and health-care stakeholders. 

"So floating every idea is probably going to create fear — fear, probably unnecessarily, in the minds of some people. We don't want to do that," Pallister says.

Opposition parties were quick to leap on the new entity as an office of spin doctors, not health reform.

"This government made significant cuts to our health care system, cut emergency rooms; and now they have a communications problem. Now they have a spin problem. So they are bringing in political spinners to make sure Manitobans swallow this bitter pill," says NDP health critic Matt Wiebe.

Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard called the PC government's roll out of emergency room closures "a disaster," that required management well before they let the public know what was happening.

"There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty and unrest and they just blew it. They should have had this out the door before they got out the door with this announcement," Gerrard says.

The creation of the new office also represents a significant change behind the scenes in the PC government.

Olivia Baldwin-Valainis will head Transformation Management Office (CBC News)

Olivia Baldwin-Valainis will head the TMO, moving from her role as head of communications and stakeholder relations for the PC cabinet. Baldwin-Valainis spent years working for the federal Conservatives, including a decade as the director of regional affairs for Manitoba's senior minister in the Harper cabinet.

David McLaughlin will run the Tory government's communications team and help roll out climate change strategy. (CBC News )

Baldwin-Valainis is being replaced by the man who helped orchestrate the PCs' election win last year. David McLaughlin was campaign manager, but has decades of experience in both provincial and federal governments. Following the 2016 election he was in charge of developing the PCs' climate change strategy.

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba