Manitoba

Province refusing to say if Concordia ER will close in June as scheduled

The next phase in the sweeping overhaul of the city's health-care system is supposed to be the end of the emergency room at the northeast Winnipeg hospital in late June, but Cameron Friesen wouldn't answer on Monday when the doors would close.

Cameron Friesen says room at St. Boniface ER, appropriate staffing must be in place before closure

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says it still hasn't been determined if the emergency department at Concordia Hospital will close in late June, as it was projected. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Manitoba's health minister is not saying whether the emergency department at Concordia Hospital will close in two months.

The next phase in the sweeping overhaul of the city's health-care system is supposed to be the end of the emergency room at the northeast Winnipeg hospital in late June, but Cameron Friesen wouldn't answer on Monday when the doors would close.

"The conditions need to be right," he told reporters Monday, "and I do accept that people are genuinely interested in this and we will have more to say quite soon."

Friesen explained that several conditions must be met before 24-hour emergency care at Concordia comes to an end. 

Timing needs to be right: Friesen

He must be convinced the renovated ER at St. Boniface Hospital can handle the expected influx of patients, with the necessary staffing in place. He also wants to have a public communication strategy in place.

In the meantime, Friesen is receiving updates regularly on the readiness of the health-care system for the change.

"I can tell you, for today, we continue to monitor closely to make sure that conditions are right for what will be a significant change in the way we conduct business." Friesen said at an announcement at the Health Sciences Centre.

When Friesen was told that his explanation sounded like a delay, he responded that his focus is on the people seeking care.

"When I am satisfied that patient outcomes, patient experience and stability can be maintained and kept at a high level, that will be the point as which at which we make the transition."

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority wouldn't commit either to a date for Concordia ER's closure, nor the conversion of the ER at Seven Oaks General Hospital into an urgent care centre by September 2019. 

"The final transition dates are dependent upon our continued efforts to ensure the highest possible patient care and safety," an email from last week said. "This includes ongoing assessment of progress and discussions with our clinical partners and front-line staff to adjust elements of the plan."

With acute care services on the way out, Concordia will offer community hospital care and transitional care services, as well as orthopedic surgery.

The changes at Concordia and Seven Oaks were originally supposed to take effect in spring 2018, but were delayed to ensure the renovated ERs at the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital could handle more patients.

Manitobans deserve to know: NDP

During question period last week, NDP MLA Bernadette Smith said she asked Friesen eight times during a health committee meeting to reveal the timeline for the ER's closure, but he didn't. 

"Concordia could be closing in as little as five weeks, and this government will not tell the public about its closure or even the workers who are working there," Smith told the House, according to a transcript of the proceedings.

"Patients and Manitobans deserve to know that — when this ER is closing, and if they will have to travel miles to go to a different ER, which could save lives."

The province announced in 2017 it would close three of the six emergency departments in the city as part of a massive change to slay wait times and find efficiencies in the city's health system. Opposition parties have criticized the move ever since. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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