Decision on when to close Seven Oaks ER still pending

Staff at Seven Oaks hospital are no closer to finding out whether the emergency department will close this summer or in September, despite a briefing by management last Friday.

Health minister says decision will be considered over the next few days

Making staff wait for a decision about when the Seven Oaks ER will close is 'just cruel,' says head of health care workers' union. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Staff at Seven Oaks Hospital still don't know when its emergency department will be shut down.

Senior staff at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority recommended the facility's emergency room be closed in July, two months earlier than originally planned. The recent public disclosure of that possibility has created further tension among staff waiting to see how the changes will affect the hospital.

A town hall with Seven Oaks staff last Friday brought little clarity to the situation.

"I think there was a stunned silence and that's what the point of a town hall was — that [there was] nothing to see here and no decision has been made, so go off and enjoy your weekend and we'll let you know if we're going to close it early," said Bob Moroz, the president of Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

Moroz, who was at the meeting, says not knowing is preying on the staff's morale and it looks like the government has no plan.

"To keep people on the absolute edge of uncertainty and waiting and waiting …to find out what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, how many people may be affected, [it] is just cruel," Moroz told CBC News. 

The close date for the emergency room will be made by Health Minister Cameron Friesen after a final recommendation by a transformation leadership team made up of representatives from the WRHA and other provincial health authority's as well as Manitoba's Shared Health. 
Bob Moroz of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals says a town hall with Seven Oaks staff last Friday brought little clarity to the situation. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Seven Oaks emergency department will transition into an urgent care facility.

An email last Friday from Seven Oaks CEO Brenda Badiuk assured staff the decision has yet to be made.

"Transitioning our Emergency Department to an Urgent Care has many factors to consider, including our staffing coverage for nurses and ED physicians as well as the ability of the entire system (including other sites) to handle the change. Patient safety continues to be the number one consideration," Badiuk wrote.

The closure is part of the Progressive Conservative government's massive reorganization of emergency care delivery across Winnipeg by consolidating emergency departments in Winnipeg to three locations — Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface and Grace hospitals — down from six.

The plans have drawn political fire from the Opposition and protests from community members. 

The lack of clarity has also drawn criticism from the union representing nurses. 

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson says the uncertainty is affecting the work environment.

"The staff in these facilities are owed the right to have peace of mind to know there is some job security or when they go to work tomorrow, what environment they are going to work in...make a decision, broadcast it and stick to it," Jackson said.

Seven Oaks' CEO told staff they "will likely know more in the coming days," and committed to sharing any new information with staff first, Badiuk's email said.

In an email statement, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the closure date will happen "when it can be assured that patient safety standards and the stability of the overall system can be maintained."

Friesen confirmed the decision will be announced "in the next few days" and promised the conversion includes safeguards to protect patients.

"There will be special measures implemented during the change to urgent care at Seven Oaks to ensure the continued safety of patients. Those measures include the continued operation of the hospital's intensive care unit and EMS protocols," Friesen said.


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