Manitoba Liberals say they would lift budget limit on knee and hip work

By , on August 12, 2015

Manitoba Liberal Party leader Rana Bokhari (Facebook)
Manitoba Liberal Party leader Rana Bokhari (Facebook)

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari promised Tuesday to lift an annual funding limit on hip and knee surgeries if her party someday forms government.

But it was not clear how much the move would cost or how it would be done.

“We will work together with whoever we have to work with. We will put together a comprehensive plan that will work,” Bokhari said.

“Costing-out will happen closer to the (2016) election, just like every other one of our policies.”

Bokhari said budget constraints have at times required procedures to be delayed from one fiscal year to the next, including at a specialized hip-and-knee centre at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg.

She said a Liberal government would free up money for such surgeries as long as a doctor and emergency room were available.

The NDP government said Bokhari’s plan would mean taking money from another part of the health-care budget.

“The Manitoba Liberals’ uncosted proposal would lead to cutbacks in other areas of front-line health care and create more problems than it would solve,” Andrew Tod, a press secretary to the provincial cabinet, wrote in a statement.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said while there are limits on how many surgeries can be performed, all urgent cases are treated as quickly as possible and there are many factors that can lead to a waiting period for non-urgent cases.

“In addition to availability of an operating room or an orthopedic surgeon, the availability of nursing and anesthesia staff, equipment needs, reprocessing requirements … all play a role,” said authority spokeswoman Felicia Wiltshire.

The most recent data from Manitoba Health shows a median wait time of 17 weeks for hip and knee surgeries.

Tuesday’s news conference was the second in less than a week for Bokhari, whose party has one legislature seat. The Liberals are hoping to emerge from the political wilderness in the provincial election slated for next April 19.

Premier Greg Selinger and Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister have held few media events over the summer, but Bokhari has started to become more visible. She held a news conference last week to promise lower alcohol prices.

Bokhari said Tuesday any move to shorten hip and knee surgery wait times would be a good move, because people waiting for procedures — mostly senior citizens — have reduced mobility and can see their health deteriorate.

The cost of her promise is not important, she said.

“That’s an irrelevant point. It’s bad policy to have a cap on seniors waiting for surgery. It’s just bad policy.”