Winnipeg's 13 ambulatory care clinics are being moved into one building, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority announced on Friday. 

The clinics, which see more than 100,000 patients each year, will move into a new space where the former Ellen Douglass School is currently located on Elgin Avenue.

Ambulatory care clinics provide diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation services for things like spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputation, diabetes, infectious diseases and muscular dystrophy after a patient has been discharged from the hospital.

The former school was bought for $1.35 million earlier this year. The interior will be demolished, the outer structure will remain, and a new $8.8-million building will be constructed at the site, which the health region expects to be operational in fall 2019. 

Once it's up and running, the health region said it expects to save $1.4 million each year. 

The move will see 73 clinic rooms, which are currently located around the city — including at Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital — move into the 33,000-square-feet of space.

Dr. Eberhard Renner, director of the medicine program with the health region, said the current setup is not conducive to collaboration between specialists treating patients with complex problems. 

"They're kind of held in very inefficient, small rooms and so they don't really fulfil the purpose of an efficient working process," he said.

"In a multi- or interdisciplinary clinic that we would envision, these patients could be treated the same day or seen the same day by different physicians. They'd come in in the morning and they would walk out with a plan."

The region said the move will also relieve pressure on the emergency department at HSC, because some patients don't need immediate attention but do need to see a specialist within 24 to 48 hours. 

"At some point, that patient may actually get impatient or worried too much and go to the ER. If [the specialist] can see the patient earlier after the referral, they can see the patient earlier. If the doctor can see the patient earlier after a referral, we might avoid these ER visits," Renner said.

A prime example of a patient who would benefit from this setup is someone living with severe diabetes, who might have kidney, eye, neruological and endocrinological issues, Renner said.

The new facility would also benefit patients who have to travel to Winnipeg from communities up north, he said.

It's the latest change announced as the health region goes through what provincial Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen is calling the "most significant change in the health-care system in a generation." Part of the focus of those changes is streamlining and concentrating resources, rather than having them spread over multiple sites.

Earlier this week, Victoria General Hospital 's emergency room was changed into an urgent care centre and the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre closed, becoming a community intravenous therapy clinic.

The Ellen Douglass School was closed in 1980 and the building eventually became Clinical Support Services, a place for the Winnipeg School Division to provide support to families and students, the Manitoba Historical Society website says.

That clinic left the building in 2015 and it was put up for sale by the school division, eventually being bought by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority last February.

Clarifications

  • The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority initially said the Ellen Douglass School would be demolished. A spokesperson later corrected that information and said the exterior of the building would stay intact.
    Oct 10, 2017 2:43 PM CT