CBC Asks: What's your prognosis on health care in Manitoba? Join the discussion
CBC hosts and a range of guests discuss the changes to Manitoba's health-care system
Winnipeggers, including those working in health care, those who need it and those who study it, discussed the changes being made to the city's health-care system and asked questions of the health authority charged with overhauling the system at a CBC News Town Hall Tuesday night.
And it wasn't just members of the public who expressed concerns about how the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has rolled out the ambitious changes announced in April.
Dr. Aaron Chiu, who works as a specialist pediatrician at both Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital and sits as the president of Doctors Manitoba, told the town hall that he agrees change is needed but questions how quickly the process is being done.
He said it's a concern he's heard from many others in the health-care system.
"People all over, not just the patients and community, but the health-care workers — whether it's the physicians, the nurses, the occupational therapists, the dieticians, the social worker — everybody is uncertain about what it's going to look like in the end," he said after the town hall.
"I think people are worried about the scope or the breadth of the change and how fast … and really the communication around the change."
The first phase of changes to how the city's hospitals will run started Monday night, when the Misericordia Hospital's urgent care centre closed, and continued Tuesday morning, when the Victoria Hospital's emergency room shut down for good to become an urgent care centre.
Ultimately, Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and Grace Hospital will become the only hospitals with ERs in Winnipeg.
The second phase of changes will see Seven Oaks' emergency department converted to an urgent care centre and the closure of Concordia Hospital's emergency room.
Those changes are expected to roll out next spring or early next summer.
The changes Tuesday morning included the closure of the Victoria's Mature Women's Health Centre, which became a big part of the discussion for both audience members and speaking guests at the town hall.
"The closure of our centre is a loss for women in Manitoba and I don't think it's actually cost effective," said Dr. Rebecca Rekas of the Mature Women's Clinic.
Chiu said he and others in the system are also concerned there wasn't enough consultation with front-line staff on what changes were being made and now the health authority isn't doing enough to properly communicate the plans to the public.
He noted the Peachey Report to government, which recommended many of the changes, was only made public early this year.
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"You wonder whether we've thought things through, what the contingency plans are," he said. "Because health care is a team-based environment, you want to make sure your team is working well but when you've destabilized the team with so many changes you have to rely on the skills of the individuals to make sure things are going well.
"I know that the health-care workers … they're really dedicated and they're very professional. I know they'll work very hard to ensure the system goes well, but it's adding on a whole layer of stress and a whole layer of anxiety and a whole layer of concern and mistakes are going to happen."
Interim WRHA president and CEO Réal Cloutier answered questions from the audience and defended the health authority's rollout of the changes, including the amount of work they've done with front-line workers to craft the plans and their communications with the public.
"Since our original April 1 announcement, we've talked to a lot of nurses, allied health professionals, doctors, and we've made modifications to our plans all along," he said after the event.
"Can we consult every staff on every issue? Of course not, it's not practical.
"We have moments and opportunities — I meet with the unions once a month — we talk about the changes and there's good dialogue and we expect that'll continue."
He said public discussions like the one the health authority had with the community and members of the health-care system at the town hall are important to the ongoing process.
"The more we can get the message out there about how we can improve our system, I think the more effective we are at making people understand why need to change," he said.