Manitoba

Grandview hospital closes temporarily as staff sent to fight COVID-19 outbreak at care home

Hospital and emergency services at Grandview Health Centre will be suspended starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Prairie Mountain Health said in a statement Wednesday.

Hospital and emergency services suspended starting 8 a.m. Thursday: Prairie Mountain Health

Staff at the Grandview Health Centre are needed to fight COVID-19 in the town's personal care home, Prairie Mountain Health said Wednesday. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

A western Manitoba hospital will temporarily close Thursday morning as staff are pulled away to help fight a COVID-19 outbreak at a personal care home.

Hospital and emergency services at Grandview Health Centre will be suspended starting at 8 a.m. local time Thursday, Prairie Mountain Health said in a statement Wednesday.

"The temporary suspension, in effect until further notice, is being implemented to support ongoing human resource needs at Grandview Personal Care Home … while the PCH remains in COVID outbreak status," the health authority wrote in the statement.

"Staff from the Grandview Health Centre are being temporarily reassigned to the Grandview PCH to assist in providing care and support for the residents and their families."

The personal care home in Grandview, about 290 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near Dauphin, is in the red, or critical level, on the province's pandemic response scale due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

Two staff members and two non-staff members at the home had tested positive as of Nov. 24, provincial data shows.

People in Grandview and surrounding areas who need urgent or emergency care should call 911, Prairie Mountain Health said in its statement.

This is what health care has come to in Manitoba — closing a hospital in the middle of a pandemic because staff are needed elsewhere.- Michelle Gawronsky,  president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union

Emergency response services will still be available and patients will be taken to the nearest open emergency department.

Patients who need health advice are encouraged to call Health Links at 1-888-315-9257.

"PMH sincerely appreciates the efforts and understanding of our staff, physicians, our Shared Health partners and the community as we go through this temporary service transition and work to keep staff and residents safe," Prairie Mountain Health said.

Workers already drained, union says

A union representing staff at the hospital is calling on the province to reassure residents the closure is temporary and that they'll get their hospital back.

"The province neglected rural hospitals to the point that they were struggling even before the pandemic," Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, said in a statement Wednesday.

"And now, this is what health care has come to in Manitoba — closing a hospital in the middle of a pandemic because staff are needed elsewhere."

Gawronsky said workers at the hospital are already drained, physically and emotionally.

The union also called on the province and Prairie Mountain Health to make sure all workers sent into the care home have access to full personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for COVID-patients, including N95 masks, gloves, gowns, booties and face shields.

I was disgusted at the way that it had been done. I was shocked that there had been, yet again, no consultation. And I was incredibly disappointed.- Sue Stirling, co-ordinator of Grandview Health Care Solutions Group

"Eight months into a pandemic, this essential safety gear shouldn't even be in question, but we have already seen health workers forced to go without in other Prairie Mountain facilities," Gawronsky said. 

"We have already filed a grievance on this issue, but we need the employer to act now."

Closure 'absolutely ludicrous': community member

Some community members in the Grandview area plan to meet at the hospital Thursday morning at 8 a.m. to hold a COVID-19-safe demonstration honouring patients removed from the hospital. Participants will drive their vehicles in a procession escorting ambulances as a farewell to patients.

The event was organized Wednesday evening, only hours after Prairie Mountain Health announced the closure in a post on its website.

"I was disgusted at the way that it had been done," Sue Stirling, who helped organize the demonstration, said of the closure.

"I was shocked that there had been, yet again, no consultation. And I was incredibly disappointed."

Stirling is the co-ordinator of the Grandview Health Care Solutions Group, formed a few years ago in response to the province's plans to close rural EMS stations. The group has been seeking meaningful health-care consultation with the province for years without success, Stirling said.

Now, they're again seeking consultation — but Stirling said they have lost faith it will happen.

"I think the idea that you close a hospital in the middle of a pandemic is absolutely ludicrous," she said. "I appreciate that there is a shortage of staff, but there are other ways of solving the problem, if they consult with the communities."

The province has had since March or earlier to plan for the impact of the pandemic, Stirling said, but didn't take enough action.

"They got complacent with the numbers around the outbreak in the early times and they thought, 'We've done our job. We don't need to do anymore,' and they have let it slide," she said. 

"People in Manitoba should be incredibly angry at the way that this is being handled."

About the Author

Aidan Geary

Reporter

Aidan Geary is a journalist at CBC Manitoba. Connect with her at aidan.geary@cbc.ca.

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