NDP promise to fix health-care system, culture creating optimism

Jillian Horton has worked in health care for more than two decades, and says she’s never heard a premier, or incoming premier, talk about restoring the system the way Manitoba’s Wab Kinew has pledged to do. 

When premier-designate Kinew gave his victory speech last Tuesday, the first people he addressed were health-care workers. The next day, he reached out to them in the legislature and promised to improve the working conditions and culture in facilities. Those messages, alongside campaign promises to prioritize health care, are creating hope. 

“I think he understands something really critical,” Horton said in a Thursday interview with CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa.

“We talk about appreciating health-care workers or nurses or allied health-care colleagues, but there’s nothing that says appreciation like safe working conditions. And I do believe that that is absolutely on Wab Kinew’s radar and he’s going to make it a priority going forward. I have to believe that.” 

Horton said the culture of wellness is discussed in health care. That culture includes elements such as an environment in which people can speak up without being belittled, where employees feel fulfilled and leaders are emotionally intelligent. 

It’s an issue across Canada, she said. 

“We’ve seen our nurses mandated to do these crazy amounts of overtime.” 

“It’s so stressful to be shifted, if you’re a nurse in one setting, to be reassigned somewhere else, to have to constantly be learning and learning and learning,” Horton said. “And so when people don’t have that autonomy, they say: ‘You know what, I have to step back, there’s no other way to preserve myself.’ And that’s another big threat that we have to really begin to try to address.”

A picture of a woman.
Dr. Jillian Horton said she’s hopeful health care will improve following premier-designate Wab Kinew’s election. (Submitted by Leif Norman)

New government will have to earn trust 

That same culture is one of the reasons Manitoban Glen Stobbe retired from working in health care this past summer after almost four decades of working as a nurse. 

He said he was tired of apologizing to patients. 

“It became evident over the last few years that I was apologizing for the lack of care or the delay in care or the inability to provide that care or trying to provide the care,” he said an interview on Up To Speed, with host Faith Fundal.

“And so it became a very tiresome circle, if you will, and it wears on you because as a professional, you want to be able to do your craft and provide the care to your patients and be responsible for that, and it was becoming more and more difficult to do that and to even find basic supplies sometimes.” 

The things Kinew and the NDP have promised like a change in health-care delivery and culture are “long overdue,” Stobbe said.

The situation won’t necessarily get better right away, but it could improve over time if the NDP uphold their words, he said. 

In terms of his retirement, Stobbe has until December to decide if he’ll completely leave the profession or if he’ll work part-time or on a casual basis.

“I don’t know if I would ever go back working full-time again,” he said. “But certainly I would come back in some casual or part-time basis, if I can trust the government’s word and they actually start issuing some directives as to what their plan will be, and how they plan on opening enrolments, and getting people in classes and providing funding for students and so on.” 

Horton added she’s also remaining optimistic following the election. 

“I’m hopeful … and part of that is because we have to be hopeful,” she said. “We always say … when a patient gives up hope that really is the end and I think the same thing is true for us in health care.”

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