Manitoba health minister accuses doctors of ‘causing chaos’ with letter on pandemic response

Manitoba’s health minister is accusing doctors of “causing chaos” for raising concerns with the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wonder at the motivation to produce that letter, to generate it at a time when they knew it would have maximum effect in causing chaos in the system,” Cameron Friesen said.

“I know many of them. I will talk to many of them. And I get it, they’re scared. They want the best for their patients, and I absolutely agree,” Friesen said.

“Manitobans need most to understand that the people in charge have got this.”

A group of 200 Manitoba doctors wrote a letter to Premier Brian Pallister on Monday, saying “it is clear the health system is overwhelmed.”

“We have watched our COVID pandemic spiral out of control,” the doctors wrote, pointing to Manitoba’s staggeringly high test positivity rate. “Mathematical modelling from jurisdictions around the world showing we are in grave peril.”

The letter was prompted by an alarming sense the province’s response has not been quick enough, the doctors told CBC News.

They called for stronger action from the province, including emergency funding to deal with the spike in cases.

The plea came three days after another group of more than a dozen doctors wrote an open letter to Pallister and Friesen, asking for a provincewide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19

Doctors motivate by ‘desire to care’: Kinew

NDP leader Wab Kinew slammed Friesen for the comments, posting a link to the video late Tuesday evening.

“As far as I know those doctors are motivated by the desire to care for [Manitobans]. The minister should say what he means,” Kinew tweeted.

CBC News has reached out to the health minister for reaction to the criticism.

Yesterday when asked about the Monday letter, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said he appreciated their comments.

Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said she didn’t see the letter and said the doctors didn’t talk to her about it.

CBC News has reached out to a number of the doctors who penned Monday’s letter for response.