Manitoba

Consultant who proposed Manitoba's health-care overhaul will review closure of Concordia ER

Manitoba's health minister wouldn't give a yes or no answer when asked Thursday if the emergency room at Concordia Hospital will shut down as planned. But Cameron Friesen said it's unlikely the consultant who suggested Winnipeg should offer emergency care in fewer locations will change his mind.

Dr. David Peachey enlisted to review status of 2nd phase of health-care changes

The expected closure of the emergency room at Concordia Hospital is under review by the man who suggested the plan in the first place. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Manitoba's health minister wouldn't give a yes or no answer when asked Thursday if the emergency room at Winnipeg's Concordia Hospital will shut down as planned.

But Cameron Friesen said it's unlikely the consultant who suggested Winnipeg should offer emergency care in fewer locations will change his mind.

Friesen was responding to questions about the fate of the emergency room at the northeast Winnipeg hospital Thursday, after announcing he's once again leaning on the advice of Dr. David Peachey. This time, the consultant is reviewing and offering recommendations on the second phase of Manitoba's health-care overhaul.

That revamp began in 2017 — based largely on a report by Peachey.

Friesen said the consultant will study the latest changes, including the planned closure of Concordia's ER — which the province previously said was planned for June — and the conversion of the ER at Seven Oaks Hospital into an urgent care centre, planned for September.

The first phase of health-care changes included the closure of the emergency room at Victoria General Hospital and the urgent care centre at Misericordia Health Centre.

"Manitobans should not be concerned about a government that is willing to conduct a quality-assurance exercise," the health minister said. "They should be concerned about a government that won't."

Concordia closure may be delayed

When asked about Condordia's ER, the health minister doubted that Peachey would turn his back on his stated goal of converting emergency rooms. 

"I would find it to be a remote possibility," he said, and converting the emergency department into a sub-acute care centre remains the plan. 

Friesen appeared to suggest earlier this week the closure of Concordia's ER might be delayed. He needs to be convinced the renovated ER at St. Boniface Hospital has the capacity and staffing to accommodate the expected influx of patients from Concordia before signing off on the closure, he said at the time.

Dr. David Peachey, who wrote the initial report that guided the Progressive Conservatives' overhaul of Manitoba's health-care system, has been enlisted to review the progress on the changes. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Peachey was in the city last week to meet with health-care leaders and will complete his interviews next week, Friesen said. His early observations is that the plan for fewer ERs is working, according to the health minister.

Friesen said he will report Peachey's findings within two weeks, and will give a timeline on plans for Concordia's ER then.

He acknowledged Peachey is under a tight timeline. He wanted to offer the consultant more time, but said the need for the review became apparent when he realized progress on the second phase of health-care changes was slower than expected.

He said the province hired Peachey because it had to move quickly.

"It was efficient in that he knew where [Manitoba was] at," Friesen said, "but in terms of his ability and willingness to provide honest advice, I have no concerns."

Tories believe in overhaul

Peachey's review does not mean that the government has lost faith in its sweeping changes to health-care — a plan criticized by political rivals and health-care professionals — Friesen said.

"Let's be clear: there is no playbook when it comes to massive health-care system transformation," he said.

"We are doing this on the basis of evidence. We are doing it by talking to Manitobans and we are doing it with a commitment to get validation of our procedures and our initiatives."

Peachey's initial suggestions have been largely embraced by the Progressive Conservative government, despite the fact his report was commissioned by the New Democrats while they were in power.

Opponents of the health-care transformation say the review means Brian Pallister's government is realizing the error of its ways.

"I think this is an admission on the part of Pallister and Friesen that their plan for health care is failing," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

"What they said today is a little mind-boggling, for them to come out and say, 'Our plan is working, that's why we're having second thoughts.' To me, that just doesn't add up."

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the hiring of a consultant does not in any way change the government's commitment to transform the province's health-care system. (CBC)

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson says the review shows the transformation isn't working.

"It now appears that this government is willing to admit they have damaged our health-care system, but it's cold comfort for patients and the nurses putting in long hours trying to hold the system together," she said in a prepared statement.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont joked that Peachey's recommendations should have come with an extended warranty.

"The fact that they're bringing Peachey back confirms" the government doesn't have a plan, Lamont told reporters.

"They don't know what they're doing and they're messing with one of the most important systems that actually affects people's health and lives in Manitoba."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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