PC Disabilities Minister Says Her Government “Does Not Support” A Triage Protocol in ICUs

June 9, 2021

Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg MB—The Manitoba NDP is sharing comments made recently by the PC Families Minister, responsible for disability services, about her government’s plans to not implement a triage protocol in ICUs.

Minister Rochelle Squires, in a budget committee meeting with NDP Disabilities Critic Danielle Adams, told Adams that her government would not pursue a triage protocol, despite calls from health care workers and disability groups to establish one in this third wave of the pandemic.

“Manitobans living with disabilities worry that should they be admitted to ICU, they could face some of the bias that occurs in their everyday lives,” said Adams. “Without a clear triage protocol that bias will not be addressed—not only are the Minister’s comments unfair to patients with disabilities but also to the health care workers stuck making the impossible choices her government is hiding from. Minister Squires should apologize to the disability community for her comments and demand her government issue a protocol now.”

Adams asked Minister Squires about a letter sent from Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM), an advocacy organization for Manitobans living with disabilities, that urged the PC government to consult with disabilities groups and work with them to establish a bias-free triage protocol in ICUs. According to BFM, disabilities advocates and bioethicists worry that without a clear and equitable protocol in place, ICU physicians and other health care workers will show bias when making quality of life decisions for patients and may conflate their disability status with their health status.

In committee Minister Squires appeared to disagree with BFM’s position, saying “a triage protocol that makes choices about who would be denied care is absolutely, absolutely discriminatory and unacceptable and something that our government does not support” (Hansard, May 28th)

The PC government’s pandemic mismanagement has led to a crush of patients in Manitoba’s ICUs, and forced health care workers to send dozens of patients out of province to receive care. Doctors and nurses warned that capacity and bed space is severely limited. Yet the PC government has refused to address the lack of a clear, unbiased triage protocol developed in consultation with impacted communities.