Manitoba

Manitoba NDP promises to reopen 2 ERs, add hospital beds

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says it's not too late to resuscitate two Winnipeg emergency departments that were recently closed.

Pallister chooses to close ERs, I choose to fix, NDP Leader Wab Kinew says in campaign announcement

NDP Leader Wab Kinew campaigns to reopen the emergency department at Concordia Hospital, which was closed in June as part of a government plan to consolidate health-care services in fewer locations to reduce wait times. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says it's not too late to resuscitate two Winnipeg emergency departments that were recently closed.

Kinew, who is hanging his provincial election campaign on the promise he'd reverse the Progressive Conservatives' overhaul of Winnipeg's health-care system, on Monday reannounced his commitment to return emergency wards to the Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals.

He also promised to add more hospital beds throughout Winnipeg, specifically at Concordia and Seven Oaks, where the ERs were converted into urgent care centres in the last few months. 

"Mr. Pallister has chosen to close emergency rooms, I will choose to fix health care, and you will have a choice between those two visions of Manitoba," Kinew said, joined by supporters across the street from Concordia Hospital.

No timeline

He estimates each reopening would cost around $4 million.

Kinew said he'd only reopen the emergency departments when it is safe to do so, promising to consult with front-line workers to ensure patient care isn't compromised.

While the timeline remains up in the air, it will happen within his first mandate, Kinew said.

"Make no mistake: it is going to take time to undo the damage that Mr. Pallister has done to our health-care system, but we are committed for the long term," he said.

The closures of the emergency rooms at Concordia and Seven Oaks are part of the second phase of the province's health-care overhaul, intended to cut health-care wait times and find efficiencies by consolidating emergency care in Winnipeg in three hospitals — Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface and Grace — instead of having six ERs.

The Progressive Conservatives say the NDP wants to return Manitobans to a time when the province had the longest emergency room wait times. 

Around two dozen supporters showed up for the announcement that the Manitoba NDP would bring an emergency department back to Concordia Hospital if elected as the next government. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"The changes we've made have improved wait times by 14 per cent at a time when Canadians in every other province have seen their waits get longer," a party spokesperson said, citing a 2018 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Premier Brian Pallister has said the provincial general election will be Sept. 10.

Kinew again said Monday that it is not reasonable to convert Victoria Hospital's urgent care centre back to an emergency department because too much time has passed since the switch happened in late 2017. 

5 acute beds

In terms of additional hospital beds, Kinew said a government under his leadership would add five acute care beds, at a cost of $1.5 million, before the end of the year. The NDP would set aside money for more beds in the future, relying on experts and front-line workers to determine where the need is greatest. 

The party says 21 acute care beds have been lost at Concordia and 90 at Seven Oaks in the two years since the overhaul began, according to a freedom of information request, which notes other beds were added elsewhere in the health-care system.

The NDP once again warned that Pallister would introduce health-care premiums in his second term, after saying in 2017 he would not proceed with the tax at any point in his first mandate.

Pallister soundly rejected the suggestion last week, but Kinew floated the idea regardless. 

"We have audiotape of Brian Pallister denying that he's going to cut health care in the 2016 election, so I'll leave it to the people of Manitoba to decide if they trust this government on health care." 

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