Other people have died shortly after being released from hospital, but recent back-to-back fatalities have put a spotlight on a possible systemic problem within the Manitoba health care system. Walking into that spotlight last Friday was the Minister of Health, Erin Selby, not to take responsibility on behalf of the health care system but to insinuate that cab drivers are the problem.
A lot of excellent material has already been written about this. For example it has been pointed out that taxi drivers’ liability insurance only covers them while they’re in the cab and Bruce Owen reports that the Grace Hospital does not appear to have followed it’s own protocol when releasing the two now-deceased patients into the cold without checking to see if there would be an “available support person” at home to receive them. The protocol was developed after a similar fatal incident two years ago, with the intention of preventing such tragedies in the future. Indications are that those looking after this patient failed to comply with this. Yet the Minister’s first response? There must be something wrong with how cab drivers are doing their job.
I don’t think it is Erin Selby’s personal philosophy to deflect blame, rather it is that of the governing NDP party and its leader Greg Selinger. We see it anytime something goes wrong. We see it when Greg Selinger blames a fictional global economic recession or faulty census counts for Manitoba’s structural deficit. We see it with failures in justice, family services, and other departments. We saw it a dozen times a day in the Legislature last session when the governing party blamed Gary Filmon for whatever problem occurred or continued under this government’s long tenure. Increasingly, these statements lack plausibility and risk insulting the intelligence of the electorate.
This is what concerns me the most: the government’s addiction to side-stepping responsibility.
The first step to resolving a problem is acknowledging and taking responsibility for the problem. By contrast the Manitoba Government’s first step too often appears to be brainstorming ways to turn an internal problem into an external problem.
Almost instinctively, the Minister of Health sat behind that table and confidently pointed the finger at the taxi cab industry without considering that perhaps the department she’s in charge of might be primarily to blame. She could have said “we will review the discharge policies of the hospital” and “we will examine if the protocols were followed”, but that didn’t come until after the fact — after the whole issue blew up in the press, on social media, and in their faces. NOW they’re examining those things and downplaying the role of the cabs in the deaths of these folks, but that was not the initial reaction.
With most other issues, the government has the luxury of time to craft a message. That is why this incident, and the speed with which it all transpired, provides more insight into how the NDP machine works. It exposes the thought process of the provincial NDP government. We saw it last Friday, there in the spotlight behind that wooden table, when the Minister responsible for health care deflected their responsibility and expected everything to blow over.