MNU Presents to Standing Committee on Health

Publish date: Monday, December 10, 2018

MNU President

Politics & Government

Put Patients First

Union news

Last week, MNU President Darlene Jackson travelled Ottawa to testify to the parliamentary Health Committee about the Impacts of Methamphetamine Abuse in Canada. The December 4th event included a 10-minute verbal presentation, followed by extensive questioning from the all-party committee of MPs.

Also testifying at the committee meeting was Bear Clan leader James Favel, Sarah Blyth from the Overdose Prevention Society, and Vaughan Dowie and Victoria Creighton from the Pine River Institute.

“Nurses know that the rapid increase in methamphetamine consumption has reached crisis levels throughout Manitoba,” said Jackson in her opening remarks. “It’s time for the federal government to show leadership on this critical public health issue.”

Jackson called on the federal government to take a leadership role by (1) investing more in long-term treatment spaces and mental health initiatives, including dedicated programs for users of methamphetamine; (2) enhancing harm reduction services, and reducing stigmatization of individuals suffering from addictions; and (3) increasing support for security services in hospitals to ensure nurses and other health care workers can provide safe, quality patient care.

“Nurses have suggested dedicated facilities and programs for users of methamphetamines,” said Jackson. “Patients need a place where they will be safe coming off the drug. Then, they need access to a bed in a recovery program.”

Throughout her presentation, Jackson told the committee of nurses’ experiences in emergency rooms, mental health units and public health clinics. Nurses are seeing firsthand the consequences of the increase in methamphetamine abuse, and the consequences it has on workload and wait times for other patients with emergency care needs.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) reported that since 2013 there has been a 1,200% increase in the number of patients presenting under the influence of methamphetamines. Nurses agree: what used to be a few visits per month at the city’s busiest ERs are now a few visits per shift. Public health nurses are also seeing an increase in usership among clients from a wide variety of demographics.

Jackson called out the federal government on their reduction of annual health transfers from 6% to 3%, noting the reduced increase impacts the ability of provinces to invest in mental health and addictions programs. However, she emphasized the provincial government is not helping the situation, noting the closure of the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre along with other cuts and changes are impacting Manitobans’ access to critical care services.

“In Manitoba, the provincial government is imposing significant health care cuts, including the closure of three emergency rooms in Winnipeg,” Jackson concluded. “To date they have failed to offer a significant response to this crisis. In contrast, there is an opportunity for the federal government to take leadership by offering real support and resources earmarked for addictions, mental health and security.”

Jackson acknowledged the work done by the Health Committee for launching a study into security and violence against health care workers. In particular she applauded Dr. Doug Eyolfson, Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingly, for championing the issue and launching a petition calling for a federal plan to address the issue. MNU members are encouraged to sign E-1902 online at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-1902

Finally, Jackson identified the need for more public housing and poverty reduction efforts. The Pallister government has stalled on building social housing since taking power in 2016. However, she noted that the crisis is impacting all communities, and users are presenting from all walks of life in rural and urban areas.

In scope, Jackson agreed that there is no single solution to what has become a crisis in Manitoba. The solutions must be multifaceted, and nurses and other health care professionals must be ensured a safe work environment as they provide care for patients. The federal government has an opportunity to show leadership, and work with the province to ensure swift and effective action for reducing methamphetamine use and harm in Manitoba, and providing long-term treatment for those that need support.

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