By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is dissolving a group created nearly two years ago to tackle a backlog of surgeries and diagnostic tests caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group included physicians, members of the general public and others, and looked at several options, including sending more patients out of province to get faster service.
Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said the group, formed by the previous Progressive Conservative government in December 2021, was never supposed to be a permanent remedy.
“The intentions were for it to be a solution in the short term to address the crisis around wait times, and we believe that the task force has served its purpose,” Asagwara told a press conference Friday.
The province hit pause on the group last month after Premier Wab Kinew committed to reviewing the work it was doing during the provincial election.
Asagwara said axing the group won’t interfere with any surgeries or diagnostic procedures that have been scheduled.
The province has approved the expansion of surgeries at the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg and the expansion of spinal surgeries at a hospital in Brandon and two in Winnipeg.
Manitoba will also be sending a mobile MRI machine to the Northern Regional Health Authority to reduce travel for patients living in the north.
Asagwara said patients should be able to be close to their loved ones while recovering, and sending people to other parts of the country or to the United States should not be the standard.
“Sending people to private clinics out of province and expecting that to be the norm is not normal. Our priority has to be building capacity in Manitoba.”
Kathleen Cook, the Progressive Conservative health critic, said the NDP’s decision to axe the group is irresponsible as staffing is still an issue in the health-care system.
“This move will do nothing but delay surgeries and procedures for Manitobans waiting in pain. The NDP are putting their ideology ahead of patient care,” Cook said in a statement.
Shared Health, Manitoba’s health authority, will be taking over operations as the group winds down its work.