Manitoba NDP and Liberal MLAs teamed up on Thursday to host a barbecue lunch protesting recently announced changes to Winnipeg's health-care system, including the closure of the 24-hour urgent care centre at Misericordia Health Centre.
New Democrats Wab Kinew (Fort Rouge) and Rob Altemeyer (Wolseley), along with with Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard (River Heights), addressed patients and staff at the Misericordia, praising hard-working health-care providers and slamming the new plan, which also includes the closure of three emergency rooms in the city and the opening of two new urgent care centres.
It's the latest in a series of rallies fighting the changes organized by the NDP.
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Sandy Rubinfeld has visited Misericordia's urgent care centre five or six times, she guessed. The Wolseley resident doesn't have a car, but can walk to the Misericordia if she needs to.
Rubinfeld was recently at the centre for stomach pain, which she thought was nothing major. She only went to the hospital at a friend's request, but the pain turned out to be appendicitis.
"I truly, truly believe that the triage nurse and urgent care saved my life, because I did not, myself, have the faintest notice that I was experiencing appendicitis," she said.
If she'd faced a long bus ride to Seven Oaks — which will be her closest hospital with an urgent care centre after the changes come into effect — she's not sure she would have sought help at all.
"More likely I wouldn't," she said. "My fear is that people will die because they won't, like me, recognize that … maybe it's even more than urgent care, that maybe it is an emergency that a knowledgeable triage nurse can catch."
Staff from the Misericordia also attended the rally. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Progressive Conservative government has said there won't be significant job cuts as part of the changes, but haven't ruled out staff transfers.
"I think that they're concerned because they don't know what their future holds — that's part of it," said Sandi Mowat, the president of Manitoba Nurses Union, at the event.
"But I think they're here today because they're concerned about the community that they work in, they're concerned about services that are provided, that have been provided for over 20 years, that the community has come to rely on … Where are these people going to go to get their health care?"
Mowat said the changes are a violation of the Progressive Conservative election campaign promise not to cut any front-line workers.
"I think they had promised no front-line cuts, they had promised to ensure safe, quality care for all Manitobans," she said. "And this clearly is a front-line cut, and they haven't demonstrated that they have any dedication to the public or the people of this city."