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State of Emergency: Manitoba’s E.R. Crisis

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  • State of Emergency: Manitoba’s E.R. Crisis
  • Manitoba's health system is a multi-billion dollar organization fraught with mismanagement and bureaucracy.
  • Manitoba’s emergency room systems are cracking under heavy pressure.

While the NDP government keeps our focus on themselves and their own petty political worries, the public’s attention should turn to two alarming failures in our most important – and most expensive – service: emergency health care.

Manitoba’s emergency room systems are cracking under heavy pressure. What’s even more alarming is that the bureaucracy managing our health system has basically admitted as much in two separate incidents. But thanks to NDP’s fixation on purely political concerns, not one minister, politician, director or manager has been held accountable for letting things get this bad.

The first problem was with the Winnipeg Health Authority’s plan to deal with chronic waits and delays in our emergency rooms. Launched with great fanfare years ago, the plan also had something the NDP hates to see in government: clear goals. The problem with clear goals is that once mismanagement fails to deliver, you have no choice but to admit failure.

That’s exactly what happened in late February. Safely hidden from any criticism by the heat of the leadership campaign, health officials admitted that years of work had actually made emergency room wait times worse. By the government’s own measurements, we’re discharging patients more slowly from ERs, we’re finding beds more slowly, and the number of patients with very long waits is roughly the same as before. Meanwhile, in 2014, paramedics independently said they were waiting 78 minutes with the average patient at hospital ERs, an increase over 2013 – despite government claims of a tiny improvement in ambulance turnaround times.

The second admission of failure came last week. The Ministry of Health was tasked with responding to the results of the Brian Sinclair inquiry. The inquiry investigated our emergency room systems after Mr. Sinclair died unnoticed while waiting for care.

The simplest request from the inquiry: make sure triage nurses check on any patient who is vomiting in an Emergency Room. Health Minister Sharon Blady insists it will take nine months – yes, months – to actually deliver on this single change. She claimed other recommendations may take several years to deliver. If that’s how unresponsive our system is, how well equipped are we to adapt procedures for a minor-grade pandemic or an unexpected disaster?

Our health system is a multi-billion dollar organization. It’s rich in management and bureaucracy. Yet officials basically admitted that it’s being mismanaged twice in the space of mere weeks. That doesn’t mean we should harshly judge the majority of hardworking health care workers who use their skills to save lives every day within the system. But it is fair to be concerned about the cabinet, the ministers, the directors and the managers who’ve been paid well for many years to organize and deploy our health care professionals.

In other provinces, if managers admitted to wasting years on a failed strategy to fix the system, or if ministers admitted they couldn’t deliver life-saving recommendations for months or years, resignations would be demanded, or even offered. Heads would roll. There would be a call for fresh eyes and fresh management.

Not here. Ministers don’t resign when they fail under today’s NDP government; they only do it when they want to overthrow the Premier. Our Premier won’t take responsibility for health care either, because he’s too busy snuffing out rebellions and protecting his own career to be distracted with real world concerns like an emergency room crisis.

Dave Shorr

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