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'A battle on this issue': NDP, PCs clash over healthcare

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A big campaign promise from the Manitoba NDP party is signalling to experts that healthcare might be the provincial election’s big issue this fall.

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew announced a new provincial campaign promise Sunday, hoping to help healthcare.

He says if his party wins the fall provincial election he will hire 300 nurses, 400 physicians, as well as other health care workers.

"The staffing crisis in healthcare is the defining issue in the health system today. It will be the biggest challenge for Manitoba’s next government,” Kinew said.

Kinew says his plan will cost $500 million over the course of four years. He also says there needs to be a new culture in the healthcare system.

"If we keep putting more dollars into the same old approach to healthcare here in Manitoba we will not get the results we need," said Kinew.

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives say that statement runs contrary to Kinew's actions.

“Wab Kinew and the NDP voted against our $400m plan to retain, train and recruit 2,000 more healthcare professionals," said a statement from James Teitsma, the Manitoba PC candidate for Radisson. "Healthcare didn’t break overnight, and we know it won’t be fixed overnight. Labour shortages are being felt across the country - but our system is healing."

Christopher Adams, adjunct political studies professor at the University of Manitoba, is expecting healthcare to be a major issue during the election.

"The NDP wants to tap into that discontent in the provincial population and wants to highlight that they want to fix healthcare,” Adams said. "The Progressive Conservatives have very strongly made announcements on healthcare over the past number of months. It signals that there is going to be a battle on this issue."

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union was at Sunday’s announcement and says she was encouraged to hear it include ways to keep nurses in Manitoba. She said right now, Manitoba's nurses are strained.

"When you go to work for a day shift or a night shift or an evening shift and don’t know that you're going to be able to go home at the end of your shift is huge," said Jackson.

She's hoping to see improvements in Manitoba, and says provincial healthcare systems are struggling across Canada.

"Healthcare is in many ways an insoluble problem,” she said. “In Canada, you look at all the provinces - there are wait times, there are issues with emergency rooms."

Kinew said part of his plan is to work with the federal government to prevent provinces from competing for healthcare workers.

Doctors Manitoba tells CTV News they are encouraged to see some of its recommendations from its Physicians Prescription for Improving Healthcare being embraced by political parties. It also says it hopes to see its complete action plan adopted by all parties.

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