June 24, 2024

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Winnipeg ICU doctor who blasted PCs’ health management named adviser to NDP health minister

3 min read

Dr. Eric Jacobsohn will be spending less time on the front lines, but he says he’s still committed to working toward improving Manitoba’s health-care system.

Jacobsohn, an anesthesiologist, intensive care physician and professor at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine, has been named special adviser to Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara.

Jacobsohn will officially start his new post in mid-January.

“I think the premier and the now-health minister were pretty clear in the campaign — a cornerstone of starting to rebuild the health-care system is building a relationship with health-care workers,” Jacobsohn told CBC News on Wednesday inside Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital.

He underscored the importance of engaging with health-care workers of all stripes. Jacobsohn, along with Asagwara and Premier Wab Kinew, will fill a provincial advisory table with health-care professionals from various areas and with wide-ranging expertise.

WATCH | Dr. Eric Jacobsohn appointed as special adviser to health minister, premier:

Manitoba physician tasked with helping government fix health care

Dr. Eric Jacobsohn has been appointed by the NDP as a special adviser to the minister of health and premier. He’ll lead a provincial advisory table made up of health care professionals and make sure workers and patients have a voice.

Jacobsohn called it a “collaborative mission” to find people who want to serve and speak freely.

“Long-term we need several hundred health-care workers, and we can’t train ourselves out of this deficit,” he said. “The fundamental start to fixing the health-care worker crisis is to engage health-care workers, make them feel like they’re being heard, and create an avenue for that.”

Individuals in high-ranking leadership positions with other health-care organizations will not be part of the advisory table because Jacobsohn does not want there to be any conflicts of interest.

He said he will still welcome their opinions and innovative ideas, and he’s encouraging people to make appointments to see him at the Manitoba Legislature.

Liaison between workers, minister’s office

Having a liaison between health-care workers and the minister’s office is crucial due to the current state of health care in the province, Jacobsohn said.

“I think it’s invaluable for me or someone else for the minister or the premier to have somebody who is pretty steeped in this health-care system, understands it, is a front-line worker, to be able to help them sift through the multitude of opinions and ideas they’ll get from many, many jurisdictions,” he said.

Jacobsohn “will provide insight and advice” to the NDP government as it works toward reducing wait times and increasing staffing in the health-care system, a provincial spokesperson said in an email.

“With decades of experience as a leader on the front lines of our health-care system, we are grateful to have Dr. Eric Jacobsohn join our team,” the email said.

To make time for the new role, Jacobsohn will step away from his work at the University of Manitoba, but he will continue his clinical practice. He anticipates 40 to 50 per cent of his time will be spent as a clinician, with 50 to 60 per cent of it in his new adviser role.

“It’s crucial that I remain engaged as a front-line health-care worker,” Jacobsohn said.

A man in a suit speaks at a podium with an orange sign that says "Vote for better health care." Seven other people stand on either side of him, including two men wearing white doctor's coats.
Jacobsohn stands in a white coat to the right of the podium where Wab Kinew speaks during an election campaign announcement about health care in September 2023. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Jacobsohn was an outspoken critic of the former Progressive Conservative government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, inking his name on a letter sent by 200 doctors and scientists to then-premier Brian Pallister in November 2020.

The letter said the health system was overwhelmed and called for emergency funding to deal with a spike in cases.

Cameron Friesen, health minister at the time, accused Jacobsohn and others of “causing chaos” by raising their concerns.

Jacobsohn, along with several other doctors, endorsed Kinew and the NDP’s health-care plan during last fall’s provincial election. They accused the PCs of a top-down approach to health care and consistent cutbacks.

Jacobsohn further said the PCs didn’t listen to front-line health-care professionals’ advice on how to improve the system, instead bringing in outside consultants to make sweeping changes.

After the NDP was elected, Jacobsohn was named to the 11-person team that advised Kinew during the party’s transition to government.

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