There are good reasons to not vote for Brian Pallister and the PCs in the upcoming Manitoba provincial election. Health care reform is not one of them.
It is, of course, a centerpiece issue this election. And it should be — health care is a big deal. But reform was badly needed. The previous government spent a long time in office throwing money at the Manitoba health complex without getting commensurate results.
Tom Brodbeck, in his first column for the Winnipeg Free Press, reminded us of some of the failings of health care under the NDP’s watch, lest we forget about people dying after getting dropped off by taxis, or the long wait times, not to mention the failure to end “hallway medicine” — the first promise the party made when they were elected in 1999.
But not only did Manitoba rank poorly in terms of health care outcomes and wait times, but we were spending a lot of money to do it. By the time the NDP left office they were spending 40% of the budget on Health. It was not sustainable. Resources were spread too thin, but the only solution was only ever to spend more money because Health was untouchable.
Change isn’t easy, and a big restructuring is hard for everybody involved. I lived through one in the business world. I’m not going to tell you who the employer is, but let’s just say it is a pretty big publicly traded company. “The Company” was profitable, but performing poorly, both in terms of operational efficiency and financially … not unlike Manitoba health care. Cue a change in CEO, a culling of the senior executives, and a dramatic multi-year gutting and rebuilding of the company. Union agreements were consolidated, jobs were cut (including my own) and the whole culture of The Company changed.
There was a lot of upheaval … maybe too much and too fast if we’re being honest … and there were a lot of unhappy people. But ultimately it worked.
Some of the big changes were walked back a little bit — something we’re already seeing with Pallister’s reforms — and several years later The Company is performing far better. If you bought shares at the start of the reforms, you would have seen them increase 500% by now. It’s not just shareholders who are benefiting … customers (most of them) are happier too. It’s simply a better run and more efficient entity.
There are parallels to be drawn here. You and I, the shareholders and the customers of Manitoba Health, are paying too much for what we’re getting. You can argue about aspects of the plan and you can criticize the way it is being rolled out, but something needed to be done and the government’s general plan of attack is the correct one. We need to see it through. At the end of the day I expect a better and more sustainable health care system as a result.