MLA for Roblin and the Progressive Conservative Health Critic Kathleen Cook says the current NDP provincial government has been covering up wait times in Manitoba hospitals since taking over. Wait times data for surgeries and diagnostic procedures haven't been updated since August 2023. She notes this means that the data on the website was nearly six months old for the public to view.
"We've been watching closely because, shortly after getting elected, the NDP actually took the dashboard down entirely, and it was only after being called out first by the media and then by us in question period, that they put the dashboard back up," explains Cook. "Then they simply didn't update it. Now, actually, since we did a news conference about this earlier Friday (February 9) morning, the data has appeared. They've updated the data to the most recent that they have available. And to me, that's interesting. I think the government is saying that it's a coincidence."
Cook says this is an early indicator that her opposition party will have to hold the province's feet to the fire regarding transparency.
"This is twice now that they've attempted to obscure this data and have only been transparent when called out publicly," continues Cook. "They should be updating this information monthly. They've changed the way that it's presented. The former PC government had an interactive dashboard, so you could see month over month how wait times for any procedure were changing. They've reverted back to more of a text-based system, so it's not impossible to compare the data month over month, but it isn't as easy. It's harder. Our expectation moving forward is that this data is updated regularly and made public, preferably without us or the media having to call them out."
Cook notes the NDP quickly disbanded the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force when it came into power, and it was the task force that the previous PC government commissioned in the aftermath of COVID-19 to deal with pandemic-induced backlogs. She explains they had some great success and wound up giving over 80,000 surgeries and diagnostic tests to Manitobans in need.
"The NDP disbanded it almost immediately after being elected, primarily, I think, for ideological reasons, because in some cases, the task force was sending patients out of province for care or were sending them to private providers. But it was always under the publicly-funded healthcare system," adds Cook. "Basically, the task force was doing whatever was necessary to get Manitobans the care they needed as quickly as possible, and that didn't jive with some of the NDP's ideology on this."
She points out that the previous task force was responsible for updating that dashboard, making it an NDP shortsightedness to cut that program without considering all the work that it was doing and planning to have somebody do that work.
"I think they were caught shorthanded, I guess I'll say, when they cut the task force and then realized they had nobody to update this data. That's my suspicion," notes Cook.
PortageOnline contacted the NDP Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara for a response, and we will post a story if we receive a response.
Southern Health-Santé Sud responded and explains, "Surgical wait times can be accessed through the Province of Manitoba website here. Any questions in relation to these wait times can be directed to the Province."