$100K to be spent on advertising blitz to tell patients about Concordia ER closure

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is spending $100,000 to let patients know about the closure of the emergency room at Concordia Hospital and its transition to an urgent care facility.

Province waited too long to start informing people, NDP Leader contends

Dozens of people rallied last month at Concordia Hospital in the hopes of reversing the government's decision to close the hospital's emergency room. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is spending $100,000 to let patients know about the closure of the emergency room at Concordia Hospital and its transition to an urgent care facility.

The rollout of the advertising campaign began on Wednesday, the same day the public learned of the changes slated to take effect on June 3, five days later.

NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew says that doesn't leave enough time to properly inform people living in Concordia's catchment area. He said Thursday the provincial government should have begun warning people of the changes weeks in advance.

"This is just another piece of evidence that this whole thing has been rushed and it's been very chaotic," Kinew said after question period.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen admitted the timeline for the changeover has been "lightning-fast," but said the government has been open about its plans in the weeks leading up to the announcement. That sentiment was echoed by the WRHA.

"While this campaign will effectively reach residents in northeast Winnipeg, many residents in the Concordia catchment and across Winnipeg will have heard about the transition of services at Concordia Hospital through the media," said Scott Sime, the WRHA's regional director of communications, in an emailed statement Friday.

Sime said the public awareness campaign, which was budgeted to cost $100,000, is consistent with the approach taken for previous transitions at Misericordia and Victoria Hospital. He said it will run on "a wide array of social and digital media, Winnipeg and neighbourhood newspapers, billboards, bus shelter and convenience store posters."

Ads to inform people about the transition of Concordia's ER to an urgent care centre rolled out on Wednesday, five days before the change is scheduled to take effect. (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority)

Sime also said the ads will link to the WRHA's existing public awareness campaign to building knowledge about the difference between primary care, urgent care and emergency care -- a campaign described by Kinew as ill-conceived.

"If you're having a heart attack, you're now expected to figure out the difference between urgent care, acute care, which hospital has an ICU, while also trying to drive yourself or call an ambulance," he said. 

"There's an assumption that people can self-diagnose that I think is unrealistic for the average patient."

Although Concordia's switchover to an urgent care facility will happen on Monday, Friesen pointed out the hospital's intensive care unit will remain open until the end of June, staffed by doctors and nurses who can respond to emergencies, if need be.

"There is no move to ratchet down that acute level of care bed," he said. "The same EMS protocols that were in place for the last number of weeks remain in place."

With files from Ian Froese


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