At the same moment government officials were announcing potential premiums on health care, a crowd of a few hundred health-care workers rallied outside the Legislature on Wednesday.
Many of those in attendance would not have known what was going on inside the provincial building as they hollered for Premier Brian Pallister to halt massive overhauls to the health-care system, changes one union head said has Manitobans “scared of what they’re losing.”
“When you get this many people showing up, Premier you’ve got to be paying attention to this,” Manitoba Government and General Employees Union president Michelle Gawronsky said. “This is a clear indication of what people are feeling.”
At the same time that large gathering assembled on the steps of the Legislature, Pallister was telling media members the province will poll Manitobans on whether they want to pay a health-care premium or have services reduced.
Jane Carruthers, who was worked in community mental health for 15 years, was among those in attendance and said: “Both my son and his wife are both in the caring profession and one of them is ready to lose her job at the Victoria Hospital,” Carruthers said. “That does not make happy families when people are losing jobs.”
Carruthers said the current government has not shown a will to improve mental-health care in Manitoba.
“I think on the whole mental health programs are always struggling to stay above water and if we want strong communities, strong leadership we need healthy people to be in these fields,” she said. “Cutbacks do not make that happen.”
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he recognized change is “particularly difficult in health care.”
“Every government has undergone changes in health care in Canada,” Goertzen said. “We have seen that it is a difficult process, but it is a necessary process.
“… This is still about improving the health-care system. We could have continued on with the longest waits in Canada and people would have been protesting in a different way. I think it’s better to work to improve the system based on expert advice … than to let people suffer.”