Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the focus will be more on rural Manitoba this year as the provincial government works to improve the health care system and make it more cost-effective. He announced major changes in Winnipeg last year. Goertzen says the issues are different in rural Manitoba than in Winnipeg.
"In Winnipeg, people largely talk about wait times and how long they have to wait when they go to an emergency room, as an example. In rural Manitoba, it's far more about access. It's about whether or not when they show up at a certain medical facility, is it actually going to be open? So we're looking, through Shared Health to see: What is the System? so we can ensure there is predictability. How do people know, when they go to an emergency room that it's actually going to be open? This is an issue, particularly in western Manitoba. That system has to be predictable."
Goertzen says part of the answer in rural Manitoba is a better ambulance system, noting ambulances serve a much different role now than in the past.
"They're essentially emergency rooms on wheels. They treat you and the treatment starts as soon as they arrive at the door, or at the side of the road at the scene of an accident. And so ensuring that we have that robust EMS service, hiring more full-time paramedics to ensure that they can get to that scene or to that home, that's really where the care begins. We have to do a better job of ensuring that system is more responsive."
He adds 'Shared Health Manitoba' has indicated it will provide its report to the government in spring and, after government review, a plan will be rolled out, probably in the summer.
"I would expect by the summer of 2018, we should be able to have an announcement about what it is they're looking at, or suggesting. There will be community consultations, there has to be feedback. Shared Health has been committed to that to ensure that they get the local input from areas that might be affected. So that will be a part of it as well."