NDP pledge to extend weekend hours at Winnipeg ACCESS centres

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew is committing to extending hours and services on weekends at Winnipeg's seven ACCESS Centres if the party is elected Sept. 10.

Party Leader Wab Kinew commits to pilot at Fort Garry clinic, with intention of expanding to all 7 in city

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, centre, announces plans Sunday to expand hours at ACCESS Centres in Winnipeg if elected. (Marina von Stackleberg/CBC)

New Democrats are committing to extend hours and services on weekends at Winnipeg's seven ACCESS Centres if the party is elected next month.

Leader Wab Kinew said the plans would boost funding for the walk-in medical centres and increase the number of health-care staff working on weekends and open all centres on Sundays.

"We believe that being able to schedule things like check-ups, or vaccinations for your kids, on Sundays will make life a bit less stressful for some families," Kinew said in a statement on Sunday. "It will also make it easier to access mental-health counselling."

Kinew said the party would start by running a pilot project with the Fort Garry ACCESS Centre on Plaza Drive staying open Sundays at an estimated annual cost of $330,000.

The clinic is currently open on Saturdays, but the NDP contend that resources are stretched.

"The Pallister government has been putting these ACCESS Centres under strain," Kinew said, adding the Pallister government has used the same five days of staffing time to cover six days of clinic hours.

"As a result the physicians, the nurse practitioners, the counsellors who work in these centres have less resources to try and deliver quality care over the same amount of time."

The NDP would restore funding to ensure at least two nurses, two primary care assistants, one doctor, one nurse practitioner and one mental-health counsellor would be staffed each day on the weekend, said Kinew.

The NDP announced earlier in its campaign it plans to boost the number of counsellors in ACCESS Centres.

He said the pilot project would also track cost savings associated with the additional access to primary care services, and those savings would also go toward expanding the pilot to the remaining six ACCESS centres. 

Kinew said his party would pay for the initiative by recouping costs after axing the "wasteful" transformation management office brought in by the Progressive Conservative government to streamline health services.

A PC spokesperson said the Grace ACCESS Centre is already open on Sundays, and the TMO office is "integral" to improving an "overly complex" health-care system that was hard for patients to access.

"Wab Kinew wants to close the Transformation Management Office (TMO) and take patient care back to the dark days of the last NDP government, where wait times were the worst in the country and there was no plan to fix it," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the government needs to go beyond extending hours and open more clinics.

"It's good to have more places to go so people don't have to go to an ER, but this was a long-standing problem under the NDP as well as the PCs," he said.

He said much of the PC government's approach to overhauling the health-care system was based on the results of a plan commissioned by the NDP. It isn't clear what the NDP's overall plan is regarding health-care if they were to resume power in the province, said Lamont.

"I've talked to so many people that work in health-care and they say the system, it needed to change, it was not working under the NDP, there were serious problems with it," said Lamont.

Manitobans head to the polls on Sept. 10.

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