Manitoba

Cuts to Winnipeg audiologists put patients at risk, says union

Changes mean adult patients will have to turn to private sector for follow-up after surgeries

Laura Glowacki - CBC News

July 27, 2017

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is cutting its adult outpatient audiology program this fall. In the future, patients who require follow up after surgeries like cochlear implants will need to pay for services from a private audiologist. (Guillermo Arias/Associated Press)

The latest round of cuts at Health Sciences Centre could put adults with some of the most complex hearing loss issues at risk, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals is warning.

The union said two of its members, both audiologists with the Winnipeg hospital's adult hearing surgery program, were told last week by managers their positions will be cut this fall.

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The clinic sees about 1,400 visits a year from adult patients, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"They are receiving very very complex referrals from every point in the province," said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals on Wednesday.

The union is still waiting to find out if 12 remaining members who work as audiologists will see their jobs cut as well.

The latest cuts are part of changes intended to save money at the WRHA. The province gave the region a mandate to find $83 million in savings this budget year.

Deleting outpatient audiology care for adults will save the province almost $314,000 per year, said a spokesperson with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"The biggest problem that we have, that I've spoken to my members about, continues to be that people simply will not be able to afford the services that are required," he said.

Aside from cost which could run into hundreds of dollars, Moroz worries private-sector audiologists may lack appropriate training and access to necessary equipment.

Moroz worries by cutting audiologists from the surgery team, patients will be referred to the private sector for assessments before and after operations which include implants or bone-anchored hearing-aids.

"I don't know that private audiologists have either the skills, abilities, experience or the equipment in order to do this work," Moroz said.

Réal Cloutier, interim president and chief operating officer of the WRHA, said in a written statement on Wednesday the health region will still fund the inpatient services for adults and it has no plans to cut audiologists who work with children — pediatric cases make up the bulk of work of patients who require hearing surgery.

"‎We recognize that a large portion of adult audiology services are available in the private sector and we contribute only in a small part to those services," Cloutier wrote in the statement.

"We will work with unions, employees and physicians who are affected by this service change to identify other opportunities that may exist within the system and minimize disruption to staff."


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Confidentially reach reporter Laura Glowacki at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Glowacki
Reporter

Laura Glowacki is based in Winnipeg. Reach her at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca and find her on Twitter @glowacky.

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