March 7, 2022
Documents Show Stefanson Knew about Patient Transfer Plan, Misled the Public about ICU Capacity
Treaty 1 and Dakota Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg MB—In the crush of the pandemic’s third wave, then Health Minister and current Premier Heather Stefanson misled Manitobans by insisting there was capacity in the province’s ICUs, while internally civil servants finalized plans to send patients to Ontario.
"You know our health care system is broken when Manitobans can’t get care in their own province. And when we find out the Premier, previously the Health Minister, intentionally misleads families about the state of our hospitals to protect her own reputation—that's when you know this government is broken too,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. "Thanks to PC cuts and mismanagement we were the first province to send people away for care and had some of the worst outcomes in North America. Patients died alone, without their family. That can never happen again. We have to stop the cuts and fix health care.”
Documents obtained through freedom of information requests show on May 13th 2021, during the peak of the pandemic’s third wave, Shared Health CEO Adam Topp had a meeting to discuss ICU capacity and sending patients to Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Premier Stefanson was given an update on ICU capacity the same day.
But five days later, on May 18, Premier Stefanson told Manitobans the province had the capacity to increase ICU beds “upwards of 170” and said she was “not sure if whether or not we will approach that limit”. She assured the public the system has the capability to “be able to handle the capacity as it comes our way” and that “if we have to,” health officials would redeploy staff “to ensure that we handle the capacity”.
On May 18th, and the following day, Manitoba’s first ICU patients were transferred to Thunder Bay. In Question Period, Premier Stefanson later claimed an unanticipated surge prompted the province to send patients out of province for care.
“Premier Stefanson misled the public about Manitoba's ability to withstand ICU pressure. She did it to cover up her government’s pandemic mismanagement and the damage years of PC health cuts had wrought on our system,” said NDP Health Critic Uzoma Asagwara. “Manitobans deserve better than a Health Minister, or a Premier, who hides the truth to save her own political interests. Families deserve a government that fixes health care and ensures everyone can get the care they need in our province.”