Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew begs Manitobans – and a friend in the hospital – not to give up in the face of the rising Omicron variant.
“I heard the Prime Minister say this week that Manitobans should fend for themselves,” he told reporters on Friday, after speaking about the need to support childcare centers.
“The Manitoba I know is one where Manitobans don’t just take care of themselves. They take care of each other, and that’s what Manitobans have been doing throughout this pandemic.
“It makes no sense for me to give up now just because the finish is in sight.”
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Kinew responded to Prime Minister Heather Stefanson’s comments on Wednesday as the public health admitted that the rapidly spreading COVID-19 strain has left Manitoba no choice but to shift its approach from containing the virus to mitigating its risk.
Stefanson had suggested that the public – not the government – is responsible for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“This virus is spreading throughout our community and it is up to Manitobans to take care of themselves,” the prime minister said at the time.
At a press conference Thursday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, several times that the province’s new approach to dealing with the pandemic does not equate to giving up.
However, the NDP leader interpreted Stefanson’s comments as a relinquishment of government responsibilities.
“My message to Manitobans is that it still matters what we do,” he said Friday. “It still matters if we can help people like my buddy get more care from a nurse at the bedside.”
Kinew begs friend in hospital to fight
Kinew’s eyes lit up when he spoke of a friend who was fighting for his life in an ICU despite following public health advice and getting vaccinated.
“The day after he was released – he had the ventilator removed from him – he was transported from the Health Sciences Center to a hospital hundreds of miles away. He is still fighting for his life.”
Earlier this week, Shared Health said that since October, 175 stable patients had been transferred from one regional health authority to another to make room in hospitals.
Kinew said individual Manitobans have not stopped following public health regulations, getting vaccinated and wearing masks.
He offered the same message to his ‘best friend in a hospital bed’.
“You probably can’t even understand this right now, but please don’t give up. We haven’t given up on you yet,” Kinew said in a trembling voice.
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Manitoba politicians have attracted attention in the past for their passionate advocacy.
Former Prime Minister Brian Pallister was internationally acclaimed for his emotional speech calling himself the Grinch who stole Christmas for limiting the size of holiday gatherings.
On Friday, the ruling Tories responded to the allegations they have handed over to the Omicron variant by stating that they are working with Manitobans to weather the pandemic.
“As public health officials have emphasized, we must adapt our response as the virus itself changes. Since the Omicron variant is highly transmissible and has a shorter incubation period, we must focus our efforts on reducing its spread and protecting our health system. As such, restrictions remain in place to limit the size of collection and in various indoor environments where the risk of transmission is high,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Acceleration of the accreditation of foreign nurses
In another development, Malaya Marcelino of the NDP had harsh words for the government. She said on Wednesday it could get as many as 90 internationally trained nurses (IEN) to work in Manitoba’s hospitals in the coming weeks if the accreditation process is accelerated, but it has failed to meet with a licensing body that could help.
Manitoba’s College of Registered Nurses told CBC News it was unable to organize a meeting to discuss the initiative, as the province announced funding last July to help these health professionals achieve the required certification.
“I personally know that IEN lawyers have reached out to members of the government without any success, but I never imagined that the nursing colleges would be in the same boat as well.”
The government did not respond to a question as to why a meeting was not held.
About 1,360 internationally trained nurses meet the basic criteria to work in the province, the government said.
But the college said it has only seven applicants who meet the provincial requirements, and 48 applicants are currently in various stages of registration.
The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba has not provided numbers.