WINNIPEG — The second phase of the province’s plan to overhaul the health-care system in Manitoba is being rolled out.
With the recent opening of the remodelled and expanded Grace Hospital ER, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it will close Concordia Hospital’s emergency department in June 2019 and convert Seven Oaks General Hospital’s emergency department to an urgent care centre in September 2019.
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen says changes that the province has already made has resulted in ER wait times being significantly reduced.
“Lengths of stay are trending downward and the region is seeing fewer patients waiting in hospital for personal care home placement than it has ever seen,” Goertzen said, in part.
The WRHA is also carrying out renovations to the emergency departments at both Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital, which will be completed prior to the ER closure at Concordia Hospital and the conversion at Seven Oaks General Hospital.
The WRHA says the changes will increase emergency department capacity and improve treatment spaces.
It’s unclear what will occupy the vacant space at Concordia Hospital once the ER closes, but the WRHA is working with the hospital to identify health services that may be utilized in the space by next September.
Over at Victoria Hospital, a consolidation of mental health services will be completed by existing resources at HSC and St. Boniface Hospital. The consolidation of those in-patient services across the region is expected to be complete in December 2018 and will see 52 beds relocated to Victoria Hospital to expand on-site treatment and counselling spaces and improve on-site access to psychiatrists.
“Overall, we’ve seen a 15 per cent decrease in wait times already with our plan less than half-realized,” said Real Cloutier, interim CEO of the WRHA.
“And the average length of stay for inpatients has improved by 6.6 per cent.”
Announcements regarding changes to rural emergency health-care are planned for July, the province said.
CUPE, which represents thousands of health-care workers in the WRHA, slammed the move to continue with the ER closures at Concordia and Seven Oaks.
The union also said the first phase of the government’s plan saw more than 1,300 health-care support positions deleted, and 131 health-care support workers laid off.
“Health care workers deserve respect and they deserve to be heard, and that is not happening,” said Debbie Boissonneault, president of CUPE 204.
“All we want is to focus on our work and continue to serve the patients and communities we care about without having to worry about whether or not we still have jobs.”
Manitoba Nurses Union president Sandi Mowat echoed those feelings. In a statement, she said, “Simply put, claiming that these changes will improve patient care belies the government’s true motivation to balance their budget on the backs of Manitoba patients, nurses, and health-care providers. Nurses are expressing almost universal concern about the cuts and changes to our health care system, and we will continue to speak out.”