Residents want Concordia ER back, patients complain about long waits at urgent care centre
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it will monitor changes very closely
Concordia Hospital has been a lifeline for Tracy Wynnyk and her family.
The North Kildonan resident has high praise for the doctors and nurses at the hospital and estimates she, her husband and their kids have been there at least 20 times over the years.
But Monday night, standing outside the hospital's now-defunct emergency room, Wynnyk felt frustrated.
"I really don't like it. I think it's a shame that they closed the ER. I've been coming to this hospital for years and I've never had to wait this long ever," she said around 7 p.m. Monday while her husband waited inside to see if he'd have to be admitted and then transferred across the city to an emergency room.
"I'm at a hospital. He should be treated here. Why is he going to get transferred?"
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority officially converted the ER at Concordia to an urgent care centre Monday at 7 a.m. The WRHA said the conversion occurred without interruption to patients.
'This is not efficient'
The change is part of an overhaul of Manitoba's health-care system and means Concordia is now reserved for patients with urgent, same-day issues that are not life-threatening.
Three emergency rooms will remain once the overhaul is complete. They are at the Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and the Grace Hospital and are meant for patients with life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions.
Wynnyk said her husband — who had blacked out, been vomiting and was in severe pain — arrived around noon and sat until 4 p.m. waiting to be put in a room. By 7 p.m it still wasn't clear if he'd be admitted and transferred to an emergency room across the city.
She said two doctors were working and there was a room full of patients. Shortly before 10 p.m., there was an estimated 4.5-hour wait for patients to be seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner, according to the WRHA's online time tracker.
Concerns about driving to ER
"This is not efficient. It's the people that are suffering right now and then those doctors and nurses are running ragged inside there trying to keep everybody happy and tend to everybody," Wynnyk said, adding this was the longest she could recall a family member waiting for care at Concordia.
George Capobianco also complained about a long wait for care. He said a Winnipeg Transit driver helped carry him into the urgent care centre after he had an asthma attack and couldn't catch his breath. He said he arrived around 1:20 p.m. and wasn't seen until just before 7 p.m.
"This is the area I grew up in. This is my hospital and now I have to go three times as far just to go get to one hospital to even have care for myself," said Capobianco, who rejected the assertion patients can still get quality care at Concordia.
"It's not as fast, it's not as urgent."
His mom, Laura Capobianco, said she worries about how long it would take to get to the ER at Health Sciences Centre across the city if her son had an emergency.
"Now you have to think of timing and trying to get through traffic and there's a traffic jam how fast can you get there? It's a lot farther from here to HSC. We're looking at least 20 minutes."
60-70% of patients have urgent care issues: WRHA
Krista Williams, WRHA's chief health operations officer, told reporters Monday that Concordia is better suited as an urgent care centre because 60 to 70 per cent of patients who went to its now-defunct ER had issues that were urgent but not life-threatening.
"I want to be very clear that we're going to be monitoring this very closely to ensure that what we were projecting to see of individuals presenting to urgent care is the lived experience."
A WRHA spokesperson told CBC that emergency physician staffing at Concordia will be the same for another few weeks. It will then likely go down by one to two hours a day after June 25 to fit the urgent care model.
The Manitoba Nurses' Union said the closure of Concordia's ER has created many problems.
The major concern for the union is the workload at the remaining ERs "that have already expressed serious concerns about their own capacity," union president Darlene Jackson said in a statement.
"Nurses remain disappointed and frustrated by the rushed closure of the Concordia Emergency Department."
Jackson said later this month, nurses will have the opportunity to select new positions in the urgent care centre or transfer somewhere else.