Statement of Concern on Manitoba’s Pandemic Preparedness

April 2, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, Manitoba Liberals have been working hard to collect and share the distresses of our constituents and other concerned Manitobans with the government.

While the government has taken many necessary steps that will slow the spread of COVID-19, we are growing concerned that the government is not acting quickly enough to deal with both the health and economic challenges we all face.

There is a lot of uncertainty and an enormous amount of emergency preparedness work that must be done. Most people agree that we need to commit resources to health and to the economy to minimize the impact.

When it comes to health, there are three separate announcements that are a matter of concern:

• Shared Health has created a website to ask Manitoba businesses to donate essential specialized medical equipment, including ventilators, gowns, masks, disinfectants and cleaners. As a legislature, we voted unanimously to approve an expenditure of $31-million on supplies. A Winnipeg manufacturer, Bomimed makes ventilators. Why is Shared Health resorting to donations?

Manitoba Liberals believe the government should be buying these supplies or getting Manitoba manufacturers to produce them, as has happened in other jurisdictions.

• The recall of nurses is also concerning. The government has had a troubled relationship with nurses who have faced mandatory overtime and complaints of burnout long before the pandemic was a threat.

A large number of nurses retired rather than go through the disruptive changes the government has imposed on Manitoba's health system. The announcement that fees and other registrations will be waived are positive, but point to a shortage of nurses in the system.

Manitoba Liberals believe the government should assure nurses they will be paid properly.

• Two of the top WRHA Executives left Canada on vacation at the beginning of the month and had to self-isolate on their return. As of March 27, 2020 media report stated "As a global pandemic was looming the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Operating Officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority left Canada.

Manitoba Liberals first called on the PC Government to issue a COVID-19 plan on March 2. The departure of the senior leadership of the WRHA on a vacation out of country calls into question how seriously health care leadership was taking COVID-19.

When it comes to the economy, we are also concerned the province is too slow to act. The Federal Government and every other province have announced supports for small businesses that are facing insolvency due to a total collapse in revenue. Manitoba is the only province that has not announced income or revenue supports to people and businesses.

For businesses to bounce back after this shutdown, they still have to be solvent. More loans, even interest-free loans, are not what businesses need. We have called for the government to announce support for business that have to close. One of the most important would be to commit to covering the overhead for businesses so they can pay their rent and utilities for three months.

This is not an ordinary recession. We are facing record unemployment and economic disruptions. The faster we delivery certainty to business and people, the easier the next few weeks will be.

We call, again, on the PC Government to:

• Make emergency investments in order to ensure our health system has the supplies it needs, including providing financing for Manitoba companies to retool to produce supplies

• Ensure that nurses and health care professionals have the tools and financial support throughout this crisis

• Review the staffing at the WRHA and other bodies to ensure that pandemic experts are in place

• Announce economic measures to support businesses that will ensure Manitoba's businesses can bounce back

Dougald Lamont, MLA St. Boniface

Jon Gerrard, MLA River Heights

Cindy Lamoureux, MLA Tyndall Park

 


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