NDP slams Manitoba health minister over comments that province’s doctors ‘creating chaos’

Manitoba’s official opposition is slamming Health Minister Cameron Friesen, following comments criticizing doctors who expressed their concerns about the province’s response to COVID-19 earlier this week.

Speaking at a committee meeting on Tuesday, Friesen was asked by NDP Health Critic Uzoma Asagwara about Winnipeg’s intensive care bed capacity, citing two letters from doctors that have been sent to the provincial government in the past week.

Read more: ‘A grave situation’: Winnipeg doctors urge province to move to full lockdown

“I have to wonder about the motivation of those doctors, who signed that letter. I know many of them, and 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.

“But 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, when Manitobans need most to understand the people in charge have got this.

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“It doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns — it doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges — but the models, the system planning is very significant.”

On Friday, a group of 17 doctors penned a letter to Premier Brian Pallister and Friesen that said tight restrictions are the only way to deal with the spread of the virus and the toll it’s taking on Manitoba’s health-care system.

“We urge you to go to a full shutdown immediately. This is the time. A couple of weeks from now will be too late. The result will be an appalling and pointless loss of life,” a portion of the three-page letter stated.

Read more: Red Cross called in to help at Winnipeg personal care homes as coronavirus cases mount

The comments drew criticism from Kinew late Tuesday night.

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“That the Minister of Health would question the motivations of Manitoba doctors — who put their lives on the line every day — is more than disrespectful. It’s an attempt to undermine confidence in our front line health workers and it is yet another comment from this minister that disregards public health science. Manitoba doctors and nurses are motivated by saving lives,.”

“The doctors who signed this letter took a serious professional risk to speak out against government inaction because of their commitment to protecting Manitobans. Instead of attacking them, the minister and the PC premier would do well to listen to their advice.”

— With files from Brittany Greenslade

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