Health care focus of NDP byelection rally – Winnipeg Free Press

With Grace Hospital as their backdrop, Manitoba’s official Opposition held a weekend rally in Kirkfield Park to harp on the health-care staffing crisis under the current government — the NDP’s strategy to win over voters in the upcoming byelection.

Front-line workers, labor organizers and NDP MLAs were among more than 60 people who gathered outside the health-care facility on Sunday.

They chanted “Save the Grace!” in unison, before canvassing area residents for the party’s candidate in the constituency that encompasses Sturgeon Creek and nearby neighborhoods, including Westwood and Silver Heights.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP supporters gather outside the Grace Hospital in support of health care and their candidate in Kirkfield Park, Logan Oxenham, Sunday.

“They’re working short. They don’t have enough staff. They’ve hired uncertified health-care aids to come in and do the jobs because they don’t have the staff, and it puts a lot of strain on (patients and staff at the facility),” said Debbie Boissonneault, a health- care aide who serves as president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204.

“(Staff) can’t answer the call bell as fast as they want. People are waiting longer in waiting rooms and not being seen.”

Corrections officer Logan Oxenham said he wanted to run under the orange banner because he was frustrated by funding gaps across the public sector.

The Progressive Conservatives are backing career businessman Kevin Klein, who recently served on city council for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood and placed third in the mayoral race, in the Dec. 13 byelection.

Longtime nurse Rhonda Nichol is mounting a campaign for the Manitoba Liberals. Retiree Dennis Bayomi, an experienced data management analyst, is the Green Party’s candidate.

During a short speech Sunday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew criticized the Tories for closing multiple emergency rooms and failing to adequately staff remaining facilities since.

Kinew also reiterated a pledge he recently made during his alternative throne speech about introducing “family friendly” hours at the Grace Hospitality’s ACCESS Centre.

The NDP wants to open the center for longer periods, between 6 am to 12 am to provide primary care and see walk-in patients with help from nursing practitioners, professionals he claims have been underutilized by the current government.

Earlier this month, in the official throne speech, the PCs said their focus was “on putting patients first” and expressed interest in using private providers to prop up the public health-care system.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP leader Wab Kinew talks to supporters as they gather outside the Grace Hospital Sunday.

“Partnerships are integral to finding solutions and will be pursued when they benefit all Manitobans. Other provinces have demonstrated that a blended public private delivery system works. We will continue to secure partnerships to ensure we explore any and all avenues to get the Manitobans the help they need now,” states an excerpt from the speech.

Boissonneault expressed both concern about the proposal and support for a renewed emphasis on investing in public facilities that have been subject to austerity measures.

“When your house is burning down, you don’t build another house beside it,” the health-care aide said Sunday.

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Maggie Macintosh

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