Liberals commit to ensuring most Manitobans no more than 20 minutes from health care access
Cutting down travel time for all would be achieved during second term of government: Dougald Lamont
The Manitoba Liberals say they want to cut down on health care-related travel costs, and if elected next Tuesday, they'll work to make sure the majority of people in the province are no more than 20 minutes away from access to primary care.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Thursday his goal would be to ensure 80 per cent of Manitoba residents can access a clinic to see a nurse, doctor or nurse practitioner in that time frame.
And the Liberals — who held four of the 57 seats in the last legislative assembly and have 14.5 per cent of voter support, according to CBC's latest Poll Tracker — said if elected for a second term, they'd make sure all Manitobans are within 20 minutes of primary care.
Lamont said far too many residents in rural Manitoba have to travel hours to get care. He slammed the Progressive Conservatives for closing QuickCare clinics and Winnipeg emergency rooms, forcing patients who need an ER, rather than an urgent care centre, to travel longer.
$100M air costs annually
He also criticized the July closure of the Family Medicine Centre — a long-serving patient centre and teaching facility in St. Boniface.
"All of a sudden, thousands of patients no longer had a place to go," he said at a Thursday morning campaign announcement.
"They used to live down the street [from the clinic] and all of a sudden they have to drive across the city for 30 or 45 minutes. So under the Pallister government, it's actually gotten worse."
The Liberals said Manitoba's health-care travel costs for the Lifeflight air ambulance alone added up to $100 million annually.
He said the Liberals' health-care promise wouldn't require more money or new clinics to be built, and instead would be accomplished through shifting of resources to save money.
He pointed to a clinic in Opaskwayak Cree Nation as a success story. He said the clinic in the community — next to The Pas, and 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg — introduced a primary care model that reduced health-care travel costs by $700,000 in its first six months.
By focusing on prevention, the clinic reduced ER visits, hospitalizations and amputations necessitated by untreated diabetes, Lamont said.
NDP would reopen ERs
The Progressive Conservatives said the Liberal announcement leaves out valuable context about work the PC government has done to improve health care.
"Under the NDP, patients may have had shorter drives to an emergency department, only to endure the longest wait times in the country when they arrived," said party spokesperson Kevin Engstrom. "We are improving that system to provide better care for patients."
He said the Tories established the first province-wide clinical and preventative services plan, which will ensure a more consistent level of care for all Manitobans — no matter where they live.
The NDP, though, said the biggest threat to primary care in Manitoba has been emergency room closures under the Pallister government.
"The NDP has committed to reopening the ERs at Concordia and Seven Oaks because we believe in tangible health care investments that make a real difference for families — not just aspirational goal posts," NDP spokesperson Emily Coutts said in a statement.
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