Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara held their first press conference on health care Tuesday – an issue that was a top priority for the NDP throughout the election. Kinew says it’s important for his government to repair the relationship with healthcare workers.
It’s a topic that Kinew and his team have hounded on at every opportunity – continuously vying and promising to fix Manitoba’s health care system. Kinew appealed to healthcare workers by sending an open letter, asking for workers to stay on the job as the NDP tries to repair the system.
“The task before us of repairing the damage that has been caused to our health care system, is going to take years to accomplish,” said Kinew.
“We are resetting the relationship right now, and we are asking for the time and the ability to collaborate together, so we can do the one thing that we all share in common, which is to deliver the highest quality patient care for the people in Manitoba.”
Kinew said that going forward, his government will hire more nurses and doctors to beef up staffing and work to end mandatory overtime for workers. He also asked health professionals who have since retired or left the sector to consider returning to their jobs. Kinew says staffing critical areas like emergency rooms, to reduce wait times, is crucial.
“The details of those initiatives will be coming very soon, and they are one of our high-priority areas for our new government,” the premier explained.
Asagwara, who is the first black non-binary Deputy Premier and Health Minister, says trust has been broken with healthcare workers due to the PCs’ mismanagement of healthcare and mistreatment of workers.
“We look forward to providing opportunities to frontline health care providers, doctors, nurses, to allied health care professionals, to have their voices heard and their expertise respected and to be part of the way we address things moving forward,” said Asagwara.
Asagwara is a registered psychiatric nurse and says it’s important to restore the morale of healthcare workers so they can continue to do the job.
“My past experience as a nurse on the frontlines lends itself very well to working with health care workers and nurses and understanding their experiences so that we can make the changes and investments that they need to see,” said Asagwara.
But Thomas Linner from the Manitoba Health Coalition says there is a lot of work to do.
“You have a lot of people in the health care system who want things to get better and want to put the focus on the patients and what is happening at the bedside and that is what I think we are going to try to see in the next while going forward here,” explained Linner.
Leader of the Opposition Heather Stefanson was supposed to speak to reporters Tuesday but cancelled due to illness.