Opinion: Bill 10 will simplify our health system

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen. (AARON SIVERTSON; Sightlines Photograph)

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Three separate reports concluded that our health care system is overly complex for the size of our province and population. This has led to additional cost, overlap and poor coordination. At the same time, Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data shows that Manitoba has one of the most expensive health care systems in the country, spending $500 dollars more per person than the Canadian average.
However, Manitobans did not need an expert report to tell them that, in the past, our system continued to rank at or near the bottom when it came to things like wait times for emergency rooms or wait times for seniors in hospital awaiting placement in a personal care home.
This week our PC Government introduced Bill 10, the Regional Health Authorities Amendment Act, which will simplify and modernize our system, put the patient at the centre (rather then the bureaucracy), and ensure the long-term sustainability of services.
This legislation moves the five Regional Health Authorities and CancerCare Manitoba under a new act and establishes Shared Health. Shared Health will be a new health authority whose role will include provincial planning for preventative and clinical services, human resource and capital. Shared Health will also provide an administrative and clinical services support function.
Bill 10 is arguably the most important health-related legislation introduced in our province in thirty years and is the blueprint for our continued transformation of the health care system. It follows the lead of other jurisdictions who also have addressed the challenges of sustainability and quality service delivery.
Our plan also relies on the experience of Manitobans who know the results of an uncoordinated system in which planning was done in the Health Department as well as health authorities. Instead of making the best use of every health dollar, systems were made to compete for that dollar, meaning that investments were often not made on the best determination of evidence and need. For example, there is currently a shortage of ultrasound technicians in Manitoba. There is budget set aside but not enough applicants to fill the need. How was this allowed to happen? Centralized planning could have effectively responded to that challenge in a coordinated way. And what’s the result of this lack of system-wide planning? Manitobans wait longer.
Our government has made huge strides in improving our health care system these past three years. ER wait times are falling while every other province sees those wait times climb. Ambulance fees have been cut in half. The number of doctors working in Manitoba grew by the second highest number in the past 10 years. Good investments are getting Manitobans the care they need sooner, such as our recent announcement of an additional 1,000 hip and knee and 2,000 cataract surgeries. And yes, we are driving down the wait times to place seniors in personal care homes in their communities.
However, we must re-organize our health care system to make it more integrated and more accountable. This new legislation is the road map.
We made a promise to Manitobans: Better Health Care Sooner. We’re keeping that promise. For more information on Manitoba’s Health System Transformation, go to https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/hst.