Manitoba

'A huge blow for our community': Winnipeggers speak out against Concordia ER closure at town hall

Northeast Winnipeg residents worried about the Manitoba government's plans to shut down Concordia Hospital's emergency department voiced their concerns at a town hall hosted by the NDP on Wednesday evening.

NDP hosted public meeting to hear concerns over province's plans to close Concordia Hospital's emergency room

Dozens attend a town hall Wednesday at the East Elmwood Community Centre to discuss the Manitoba government's plans to shut down Concordia Hospital's emergency department. (Jules Runne/CBC)

Northeast Winnipeg residents worried about the Manitoba government's plans to shut down Concordia Hospital's emergency department voiced their concerns at a town hall hosted by the NDP on Wednesday evening.

Dozens packed a room at the East Elmwood Community Centre for the public meeting, which was hosted by Daniel Blaikie, the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona, and Concordia NDP MLA Matt Wiebe.

"This is going to be a huge blow for our community," said Wiebe, who is the provincial NDP's health critic.

"It's going to make a big difference in the care that they can get, the health-care services in their own neighbourhood, and it's part of a larger number of services that they feel they're losing in their own community."

As part of an effort to streamline services and cut wait times, Concordia's ER will be closed and no longer provide 24-hour emergency services, the province and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority announced earlier this month.

Emergency departments at Seven Oaks and Victoria hospitals will be converted into 24/7 urgent care centres, which will handle immediate but non-life-threatening emergencies.

The province based its decisions on recommendations contained in a report, commissioned by the previous NDP government, that looked at ways to make health care more efficient.

But critics argue that closing Concordia's ER will leave much of northeast Winnipeg and nearby rural communities without an emergent or urgent care unit, forcing residents to travel farther away for those services.

Michele Sykes, who lives in the area, said she attended the town hall because it's important for everyone to have a say in public services such as health care.

"My concern is that our goal is to provide quality health services and that we're essentially putting forth a barrier in accessibility, and health care should be accessible to all," she said.

The Concordia ER town hall was hosted by NDP MLA Matt Wiebe and Daniel Blaikie, the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona. (Jules Runne/CBC)

Sykes, who works as a laboratory technologist and as a medical laboratory instructor at Red River College, said shutting down an ER affects other parts of the health-care system, too.

"What does this closure of the ER mean for paramedics, for laboratory services, for imaging services? I feel like it's [a] ripple effect," she said.

"It's not just a closure of an ER, it's a change to all health-care services."

Some hospital employees have said they've received limited information about how Winnipeg's remaining ERs will accommodate the influx of patients anticipated to come when Concordia's ER shuts down.

The Concordia Hospital emergency department saw 29,608 patients last year, according to the WRHA.

"People understand the Concordia emergency room to be their first point of contact for health care for this entire community. And without that point of contact, really they have nowhere else to go and they have to get into an ambulance or they have to travel across the city to get service," Wiebe said.

"That's unacceptable, and I think what we're hearing from people right now is they want to see that changed, they want to see the government stop that, and they want to see this ER kept open."

Wiebe said he hopes the Progressive Conservative government will listen to the concerns raised by those who want the Concordia ER to remain open.

Meanwhile, Elmwood NDP MLA Jim Maloway is launching his own campaign to keep Concordia's emergency department open, warning that "the result will be chaos in our health-care system" if the ER is closed.

Maloway said he and Jason Schreyer, the city councillor for Elmwood-East Kildonan, will hold an information picket outside Concordia Hospital on Thursday morning.​

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