It’s time to put patients first and stop union-led fear-mongering about private healthcare in Manitoba

Joseph Quesnel: Manitobans rally behind private healthcare to tackle waitlist backlogs

Manitobans deserve access to quality healthcare – not fear and misinformation from union-funded interests.

Recently, the province announced it would expand its partnership with Winnipeg-based Cerebra Medical to provide access to at-home sleep disorder testing, diagnosis and treatment planning.

Dr. Peter MacDonald, chair of the province’s Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Taskforce steering committee,  stated the move to a private sector partner was made to tackle public waiting list backlogs.

“This has been going on for years and years and years that we need to utilize both the public system and private assistance to tackle the waitlist and backlog that otherwise you’re not going to be able to serve as Manitobans in a timely fashion,” he said.

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The government made addressing the diagnostic backlog a priority, as it’s recognized that undiagnosed sleep disorders can cause surgery delays.

Now, it deserves to be mentioned for the umpteenth time that governments – for decades now – have used the private sector to address backlogs for surgeries and other procedures. This is occurring all over Canada and should be without controversy. Moreover, these kinds of procedures are billed to the public system, not the patient.

However, none of this seems to ever stop the usual suspects in the public sector healthcare monopoly from spreading misinformed fears over “credit card” healthcare. It appears to be of little consequence to certain cartel interests in the province that 7,680 more Manitobans would have access to healthcare treatment for sleep disorders over two years.

The Manitoba Health Coalition – despite its innocuous-sounding name – is the main culprit here. Rather than celebrate new ways to address medical backlogs, it attacked the deal with the private company. Looking at the Manitoba Health Coalition’s website, it becomes apparent it is a virtual who’s who of union interests in Manitoba with a stake in preventing competition in healthcare. In other words, it puts ideology over quality patient care.

The Health Coalition also bills itself as “non-partisan,” but at the top of its list of coalition supporters is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba. While not directly affiliated with the NDP, that organization has never strayed from the NDP playbook or opposed policies the NDP is pushing at a given time.

In Alberta’s recently concluded election, union-led interests in that province attempted to scare the public over past comments from Premier Danielle Smith about contracting out public hospitals and finding new models of delivery. They presented this as “selling off” public hospitals. There is nothing in Smith’s plan about “selling” hospitals, and her proposals were well within the restrictions of the Canada Health Act. But union-led interests in Alberta led the charge spreading fear and misinformation.

Perhaps Manitoba union interests are finally acknowledging the end of their influence in misleading the public. A Probe Research/Winnipeg Free Press poll conducted in June 2022 found that 74 percent of Manitobans favour increasing capacity in the healthcare system through private providers. The Manitoba Health Coalition’s response? They attacked the poll instead of admitting their ideology was losing out in the marketplace of ideas.

It’s time to put patients first and stop union-led fear about innovation and competition in healthcare.

Joseph Quesnel is a senior research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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