Selby should read this letter

- March 28th, 2014

In response to my Friday column on Health Minister Erin Selby’s comment’s about the tragic deaths of 12 infants in the pediatric cardiology surgical program at HSC in the 1990s, Donald Epp offers some great insight into the issue.
Here’s his letter:

Good Morning,

It was with great shock and dismay that I read your article this morning regarding the uneducated comments from the Minister of Health and her reference to the Manitoba Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. It is quite clear that Minister needs a history lesson and to gain an understanding of what has occurred in health care since the 90’s when this inquest took place.

I want to make a clarification to your article. You refer to the “pediatric surgical deaths” which is not completely accurate. This was part of the pediatric “cardiology” surgical program which, as a result of the deaths and Judge Sinclair’s report, the cardiac surgery program was terminated in Winnipeg. It would seem that this is a dark stain on the history of the pediatric cardiac program but in reality it was a “wake up” call which spurred several individuals into action and resulted in a pediatric cardiology program here in Winnipeg that is a model of Family Centred Care and a god-send to families unfortunate enough to deal with life threatening cardiac issues in their children. The Variety Children’s Heart Centre is a very unique group of physicians, nurses, and allied health.

My family is one of those families unfortunate enough to have cardiac issues. My son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at the age of three weeks and we have been a frequent visitor to Variety and Children’s Hospital ever since. Our experience there has been like no other experience we have had in health care where we as parents are treated as equal partners in our son’s health care. One of the most positive results of the pediatric cardiology inquest was the participation of Winnipeg Children’s Hospital in the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network which has allowed Manitoba children the opportunity to be treated by the very best Doctors available in Western Canada. We are given choices. Our son has had surgery in Edmonton at the Stollery Children’s Hospital but if we chose we have been given the option to send him to SickKids in Toronto or even the Mayo Clinic. Because surgical services are not offered in Manitoba we are sent to the best Doctors out there. In the words of our Cardiologist it is simply a matter of a plane ticket, and if you have to go out of province why would you not go to a specialist who has the best reputation and the highest success rate. Imagine the concept of having choice in “our” medical system. The other huge improvement that has been made in the pediatric cardiology program is that we now have 4 pediatric cardiologists in this province. In the summer of 2008, there was only one cardiologist for all of the children of Manitoba. I cannot even imagine what that was like. Since that time 3 other cardiologists have joined our program and, not to be overly biased, I would say the program is thriving. Since 2009, the pediatric heart catheterization program has restarted, which was discontinued as a result of the inquest. There is also construction currently underway to build a new operating theater for heart caths and also a facility to do pediatric cardiac MRI. These are huge advancements for the program. Imagine a “good news” story in Manitoba Health Care. I would say the provincial government could take credit for this success but in my opinion these successes have been achieved in spite of government interference. Pediatric Cardiology in Manitoba is still talked about in “hushed” tones in government circles;recalling the issues of the mid 90’s. I wish some of the politicians and bureaucrats could take a critical look at was has been going on with pediatric cardiology. They are now a model which could be emulated by so many other programs. They actively engage families in the care of their children, they demonstrate a very open and caring environment, and most importantly are effective advocates for our children. They seek out the very best care for our kids whether that be in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, or Rochester.

What frustrates me beyond belief is how a politician, a cabinet minister no less, can use a judicial inquest and the death of children to score political points. She has no idea what caring individuals can accomplish if given an opportunity. It is time that we start thinking very differently about how we deliver health care in this province and in this country. Perhaps, looking at the success of what a small clinic that is housed in the Community Services Building on William Ave can accomplish. I could introduce you to several of those successes; starting with my son.

Personally, I would like to thank Justice Sinclair and the many participants in the Pediatric Cardiology Inquest. I would especially like to thank and express condolences to families who lost their children in the early 90’s. It is this inquest that sparked a handful of people to carry on caring for pediatric cardiology patients under adverse conditions. These people laid the groundwork for a resurgent program that I am so proud to be a part of to this day. What do you say to the people who saved your son’s life? The Minister of Health needs to become part of the solution and not continuing to be part of the problem by dredging up ancient history which she does not understand.

Donald Lepp

Member Board of Trustees – Seven Oaks General Hospital
Council Member – Family Centre Care Council – Stollery Children’s Hospital
Parent Representative – Child Health Quality Council

Rapid transit or road repair? You decide

- March 18th, 2014

It’s a fairly straightforward question.
If you were in charge of city finances, would you proceed with the second phase of Winnipeg’s Bus Rapid Transit, at a cost of $600 million, even if it meant grossly underfunding the city’s local and regional roads?
City council is going ahead with the second phase of rapid transit, from the Jubilee underpass to University Crescent. There is no evidence the corridor will transport people from downtown to the U of M Fort Garry campus any faster than regular buses do know. And there’s no evidence it will increase ridership. Nevertheless, the city is going ahead with it anyway.
By doing so, city politicians have decided to underfund local and regional roads by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years.
According to the city’s 2014 budget, for example, local roads require funding of $80 million a year just to maintain and upgrade what we have. The city plans to spend only $31 million on local roads this year — not even half of what’s required. That’s why our streets will be worse next year than they are this year, and they’ll be worse the year after that, at least under the current scheme.
Local streets won’t be fully funded until 2023 under the existing plan. That means streets will continue to deteriorate until that time.
That’s the trade-off. The city can use infrastructure money for rapid transit, or it can use that money to bring our roads up to acceptable levels over the next few years, which is important not only for motor vehicles but for cyclists, too.
You can’t claim to support active transportation while neglecting the very roads people use to cycle to work, school and play.
So, what would you do if you were in charge of the city’s treasury? Rapid transit or road renewal? Or something else?

A case for Katz?

- February 19th, 2014

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been too hard on Mayor Sam Katz these days. I have been, according to at least one reader. I do recall awhile back asking people if and why they would vote for Katz again in October, should he decide to run. I didn’t get a single reply. Until now.
This Winnipegger thinks the world of Katz and sees a side to the mayor I must have missed. Here it is, uncut and un-edited:

Hi Tom,
I read your article on Sam Katez, but must say I totally disagree with your option of him. He has been a big improvement over the last few Mayors, with bringing Winnipeg into the 21st century. The new Football stadium, the Human Rights Museum, demolishing derelict buildings all over the city. He held back as long as possible the property tax increases, but we knew it would not last forever. He also has given the police of this city the money and resources they needed to improve our stolen cars problem, bust drug grow ups, capture and punish gang members, and don’t forget repro’ing their ill gotten gains for drug selling, etc. He has improved our Zoo, city parks, and outdoor pools and water pads, for kids all over the city.

The water problem is not necessary his fault, since he depends on the Water and Waste Managers to do their job properly, but he is on their asses to improve it more than they are trying to get away with.

Yeah, he has made some mistakes, and made some bad choices. But if you look at the really big picture, you can not get a better Mayor than Sam Katez for our city. I’d vote for Sam again for sure, especially since people like Judy Wasylycia-Leis is on the ballot, and everyone thinks she is the answer!! The Public forgets how her biggest idea is to raise taxes even more, to solve our infrastructure problem. When wait a minute, that’s what Selenger already did, and we don’t need any more huge tax increases! Most people are having trouble enough right now, to get by.

So before you start dissing our Mayor, look back and see the good he has done for all of us!!

A Very Loyal Winnipegger

NDP flip flops on horse racing debacle

- February 13th, 2014

The Selinger government continued to scramble Thursday in its bid to save face in the ongoing battle it began with the Manitoba Jockey Club last year.
The province has delayed yet another court date with the MJC in order to keep the 140 VLTs operating at the Downs. And the NDP will now allow the machines to operate well into March under the existing agreement.
The court date — an attempt by the MJC to get an injunction against the province — originally scheduled for Feb. 3 was already delayed once to Feb. 13. Now the NDP has agreed to delay it again until March 21, allowing the MJC to continue operating its VLTs and retain 100% of the net revenues from the machines.
“The arrangement that was in place remains in place,” Jeff Rath, the lawyer for MJC, said Thursday.
The Selinger government is now desperately trying to negotiate a new deal with the MJC for the Downs to keep its VLTs and most of the money generated from the machines for the long-term.
Selinger 1
Premier Greg Selinger now realizes he screwed up in “hospital over horses” gimmick.

It’s a complete turnaround from the chest-pounding declaration last year by Premier Greg Selinger that the province planned to take $5 million from the VLT site at the Downs to ensure the money was going into “hospitals over horses.”
The flip-flop came after the NDP realized that if they did so and the Downs shut down the machines — because the track can’t survive on the 20% VLT take the province has offered — government revenues from the site would disappear.
NDP staff and their political leaders didn’t think the plan through and they now realize that 80% of zero is zero.
In other words, the really dumb ploy to try to quash the MJC for political reasons — the MJC board is made up mostly of Tories — has backfired on Greg Selinger and he and his political staff now have egg on their faces.
The MJC is taking the province to court over legislation it passed in December to cancel Manitoba Lotteries Corp.’s siteholder agreement with the Downs. The legislation was supposed to come into effect 60 days after it was proclaimed.
But the NDP is now doing everything in its power to avoid a court date — and has delayed implementation of its own legislation — because they know the outcome of the proceedings would result in a loss for government under any circumstance.
If government wins the court case, the MJC would shut down the machines and government would get no revenue whatsoever, including all of the tax revenue associated with a $50-million horse racing industry. If MJC wins the court case and is granted an injunction, the NDP also loses.
Which means the only option left for the Selinger government is to negotiate a deal that the not-for-profit organization will accept.
In the meantime, the MJC continues to hammer the Selinger government in attack ads it has purchased in the media, accusing Premier Greg Selinger of trying to kill horse racing in Manitoba.
The ads are effective because that’s exactly what Selinger is trying to do — all for political reasons that really have nothing to do with horse racing.
And there appears to be no plan in place by the MJC to let up on the ads, at least until the original VLT agreement is fully restored.
It appers the depth of stupidity in the Selinger government knows no bounds.

PST haul higher than projected

- December 20th, 2013

The Selinger government’s PST haul is way up so far this year, a lot higher than expected after the NDP jacked up the tax to 8%.
That’s according to the second quarter financial report released by Manitoba Finance Dec. 20.
Government had projected PST revenue as of Sept. 30 to be $976 million. But it came in at $1.014 billion. That’s nearly $40 million higher than expected mid-year.
The bean counters say that won’t change their year-end projection for PST revenue. But I’ll bet donuts to dollars it will be higher than projected by year’s end.
It always is when they raise or expand the PST.
Despite the PST jackpot, the NDP still can’t balance the books.
In fact, the deficit projection is now larger than projected at the beginning of the year.
The NDP projected a core government deficit of $505 million at the beginning of the fiscal year. They now project a $539 million shortfall.
No matter how much more money you give these guys, they can’t balance the books.
Debt is going up, too, according to the second quarter report.
The government’s summary net debt is expected to hit $17.4 billion this year, up from $15.9 billion last year. That’s a mind-boggling debt increase of $1.5 billion in a single year.
NDP votes in favour of PST bill
NDP MLAs Nancy Allan (l) and Deanne Crothers stand in favour of PST vote in December
Per capita debt — how much each Manitoban owes — is also up to $13,718 from $13,017. And debt as a percentage of GDP — a very important indicator — is expected to rise to 28.1% from 26.8%. It’ s been climbing every year for the past five years.
And remember, all this is happening during good economic times with no major flooding for the past two years.
If you can’t get your finances together during good times, when can you?