Manitoba

'Nobody sounds ready' for June closure of Concordia ER, consultant says

Dr. David Peachey says none of the health care leaders he interviewed said the time is right for the northeast Winnipeg hospital to close its ER space in June in favour of a walk-in clinic.

Dr. David Peachey says people otherwise on board with health-care revamp, which nurses and NDP dispute

Hundreds of people rallied at the Concordia Hospital earlier this week, in the hopes of reversing the government's decision to close the hospital's emergency room. The consultant who will make a recommendation about the hospital's future says nobody told him the ER is ready to close by late June. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The consultant brought back to review Winnipeg's hospital reorganization plan says nobody has told him that Concordia's emergency room is ready to close in June.

Dr. David Peachey says none of the health care leaders he interviewed felt the time is right for the northeast Winnipeg hospital to close its ER space in favour of a walk-in clinic, as scheduled.

"The emergency closure is one piece of the puzzle," he told reporters on Friday. "Nobody sounds ready for it." 

Peachey has just a few weeks to evaluate Phase 2 of the health-care revamp, which most notably would shutter Concordia's ER in late June and convert the emergency room at Seven Oaks Hospital into an urgent care centre this September.

Tight deadlines have taken a toll

The consultant from Nova Scotia spent two weeks speaking with health-care leaders in Winnipeg, and will devote the coming days to recording his findings. His recommendations, which he said would include the future of 24-hour emergency care at Concordia, will be made public next week.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen has refused to commit to a date on the ER closure at Concordia, or if it'll happen at all. He's said he wouldn't endorse the change until he was convinced the emergency department at St. Boniface Hospital, under renovation, can accommodate an influx of patients.

During his interviews, Peachey says, health-care leaders liked the direction of the overhaul, which began in 2017. Since then, the emergency room at Victoria General Hospital and the urgent care centre at Misericordia Health Centre have been closed in a consolidation effort designed to cut wait times and find efficiencies.

But they worry that Phase 2 of the overhaul is happening too fast.

"All of a sudden things got so compressed that the human toll that comes out of that compression, the administrative toll in making things happen. And having decisions that were based on proper needs and risk assessment seemed to be difficult for people — and as we talked to them, I agree they were," he said from Shared Health's headquarters in downtown Winnipeg.

After two weeks of interviews with various health-care leaders, Dr. David Peachey says it's clear the health-care overhaul in Winnipeg is working, but people are worried about the speed at which the changes are taking effect. (Ian Froese/CBC)

"The message was still, though, that the plan is right — you've got to look at the timelines."

He specifically highlighted May to September as an area of concern, since various changes are happening concurrently.

"It's a stress point in the system."

'Absolute consensus' in the overhaul

Otherwise, Peachey said, his interviews made clear the health-care revamp based on his advice is working.

"There was an absolute consensus that the plan is right," Peachey said. "The timelines may be off, but the plan is right and people are very comfortable in saying that to us."

Peachey said that opinion was mostly shared by the 17 nurses he met on Thursday — but the Manitoba Nurses Union said he mischaracterized their discussion. 

"We had nurses with decades of experience in the meeting who said very clearly to Dr. Peachey they've never seen it this bad," said Wes Payne, director of communications. "To somehow come away that that's an endorsement of this plan, it's just completely misrepresenting what nurses told him."

Peachey said he was provided with no directive from the provincial government or health officials, but was offered several questions to guide his review that he didn't have to act on. The subjects he was asked to consider include bed placement, patient flow, subacute care and the "predicted and unpredicted consequences" of his original plan.

Surgeons want medical backup

In the two years since delivering his plan, Peachey says the proportion of seniors among Winnipeg's population has increased notably, which would strain health-care services more than he originally imagined. 

Peachey said he spoke with orthopedic surgeons at Concordia who are concerned they won't have medical backup in case the ER closes.

"It's an issue that strikes us as legitimate," he said.

Friesen, however, sees Peachey's statements as a endorsement of the overhaul.

The expected closure of the emergency room at Concordia Hospital appears to be in jeopardy, once the province hired Dr. David Peachey for a 'quality assurance' review. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

"Our confidence in the plan to improve patient outcomes was largely validated today by Dr. Peachey, who said almost all stakeholders agreed we are on the correct path," the health minister said in a statement.

"However, we know that any plan as broad and dynamic as one that aims to solve historical problems within our health-care system will have challenges of its own."

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it hasn't been afraid to amend the overhaul plan when needed.

WRHA willing to amend

"We have made – and will continue to make — adjustments to our plans as needed, to create a health-care system that delivers the safest and highest-quality care possible," a spokesperson said. 

The New Democrats said nobody but a few managers and consultants think the government's overhaul of health care is working.

"This is just another step towards the government admitting that their plan for health care is failing," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

"They're now walking back the timeline yet again. Why don't they just admit what everybody else in the province already knows, that Concordia and Seven Oaks emergency rooms ought to stay open?"

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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