Manitoba will become last province to build a stroke unit

The Manitoba government is promising to fulfil an election pledge by becoming the last province in the country to build a dedicated stroke unit.

28-bed centralized unit to take up 2 floors of Women's Pavilion at Health Sciences Centre

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Christine Houde says the need for supports for people who have strokes will only grow as the province's population ages. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Manitoba will become the last province in the country to build a dedicated stroke unit.

A 28-bed unit will be built at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, with construction starting this December, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Tuesday morning.

He said the evidence in favour of a unit devoted to treating and supporting stroke patients is overwhelming.

"We are the only province without one. Now is clearly the time to advance," Friesen said.

The Progressive Conservatives promised to build a stroke unit during the 2016 election campaign that ushered them into power.

Promise kept on last day

Manitoba's three main political parties all vowed to build the space.

In fact, hours after the Manitoba Liberals made that pledge in December 2015, the province's NDP government said plans for a unit were already in the works.

Tuesday's announcement at the Health Sciences Centre was made the day before the province's self-imposed blackout on government announcements goes into effect, ahead of an election expected this September.

A team led by neurologists and rehab specialists will lead the centralized unit, taking over the fourth and fifth floors of the Women's Pavilion at HSC. Construction starts in December once the staff, equipment and patients can be shifted to the new Women's Hospital.

The relocation makes the Health Sciences Centre the right fit for a stroke unit, Friesen said.

"It is also the opportunity the new women's hospital will create," he said. "We've got space and this became the best candidate for the use of that space."

Provincial officials didn't specify a cost because the tender must still be released, Friesen said, but he estimated the price tag will be in the millions.

Stroke units saves lives

The unit is meant to prevent stroke complications, reduce the length of hospital stays and improve access to other acute care beds, the health minister said.

"It locates the services, the resources, the personnel all where they can be maximally effective," Friesen said. 

"There is something to be said about a model that physically locates these providers of care under one roof. That's what the evidence suggests: outcomes get better."

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Christine Houde said her organization has been advocating for a stroke unit for more than 10 years.

"Manitoba needs and deserves a dedicated stroke unit stroke unit to save lives," she said. "They also increase the odds that a stroke patient will return home again and regain independence."


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at