Manitoba government orders management cuts to health authorities, agencies

All regional health authorities and three major health agencies in Manitoba have been told to slash the number of managers they have by 15 per cent as part of cost-savings efforts.
The cuts ordered by the provincial government come shortly after the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority was told it had to find $83 million in savings in 2017-18. (Canadian Press)

A sweeping mandate has been given to health agencies and authorities throughout Manitoba: slash 15 per cent of your management positions.

All five of the province's regional health authorities, along with Diagnostic Services Manitoba, CancerCare Manitoba and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba have been told by the Pallister government to reduce the positions as part of their respective budgets for 2017-18.

Few of the agencies were willing to tell CBC News how many positions this will affect. The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority estimated it'll impact about 14 positions of its current 3,500 complement.The Winnipeg Free Press reported Wednesday it will affect about 90 Winnipeg Regional Health Authority positions out of about 28,000 jobs. 

The remaining government-funded agencies are holding their numbers close to their chest, refusing to tell CBC News how many management positions exist within their organizations until the budget is released on April 11.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it is "working to achieve this management reduction" and reviewing which positions will be affected in order to minimize the fallout for the public.

"The WRHA will make every effort to mitigate the impact of this action on our staff and retain an administrative structure that continues to support the delivery of quality health-care services," said spokesperson Bronwyn Penner Holigroski.

The management reduction comes shortly after the Winnipeg health region was ordered to find $83 million in savings in 2017-18. Its regional counterparts have also been given savings targets by the government.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the mandate it about keeping Manitoba's health system sustainable. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Experts call for a more pragmatic approach 

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the mandate will ensure the sustainability of the province's healthcare system, but human resource and labour experts argue it's a heavy-handed approach.

Sean MacDonald, an instructor at the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business, said instead of "death by 1,000 cuts" the government needs to be calling for the agencies to look at individual programs.

"That's not the way you do cutback management," said MacDonald. "The way you do it, is you actually remove programs, you amalgamate programs into one need to go program-by-program and determine which ones are to be merged, and which ones are unaffected and yes, which ones are going to be removed."

He isn't afraid to admit that the bureaucracy has grown within agencies such as the WRHA and doesn't oppose the directive to find savings, but argues it needs to be done more pragmatically.

"This is doable and I do feel bad that there are some really good men and women that will lose their jobs at the WRHA, but that bureaucracy has just got out of control," MacDonald told CBC News.

Health organizations to report back to minister at end of month

Goertzen said the RHAs will be expected to report back with a plan for how they will accomplish these outcomes by the end of the month.

"Our government is committed to fixing the finances in order to ensure the sustainability of services Manitobans depend on today and into the future," Goertzen said in a prepared statement.

The health agencies and authorities aren't alone in this mandate, Crown corporations have received the same notice from the government, calling for a 15 per cent cut to its management roster. Manitoba Hydro has already announced it will eliminate 900 positions — about 15 per cent of its total workforce.

David Camfield, an associate professor of labour studies and sociology at the University of Manitoba, argues it is bad practice for the government to make a sweeping mandate of a 15 per cent management cut without looking at each organization independently.

"They serve different populations. If the real concern was how to do the job best, you would not use this method for reaching that objective," he said. "This is a much more arbitrary, budget-slashing exercise."