Manitoba eye care in 'dire risk' if urgent centre closes: doctors
Urgent care centre to become intravenous clinic as part of health-care revamp
Manitoba eye doctors want the Pallister government to reconsider its decision to close the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre.
The Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba says the closure, at the end of September, will leave patients with eye emergencies in jeopardy.
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- Doctors pen letter pleading for Misericordia urgent care centre to stay open
"If they're not treated urgently, the patient can lose vision and that can be irreversible vision loss," said Jennifer Rahman, chair of the organization.
Rahman, along with 26 other eye doctors, sent a letter to Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Monday morning asking to keep the centre open.
The letter says patients with eye problems have expressed "great anxiety and concern" over where they will go during an emergency once the centre closes.
"The future of eye care services in Manitoba is at dire risk without the support and presence of an active Urgent Care at Misericordia Health Centre," the letter says.
Rahman described the centre as a high-end walk-in clinic. Attending doctors have a lot of experience with critical eye issues, because they deal with them frequently, she said.
She said of the 39,000 patient visits per year to the urgent care centre, over 4,500 are eye emergencies.
Closure will mean longer waits: doctor
She said once it's closed, patients will have to go to an emergency room to have their urgent eye issues dealt with and won't receive as fast or specific care as they do at the Misericordia.
"They're going to be put down on the list and wait much longer for their assessment."
The Pallister government announced it April it was closing the Misericordia Health Centre's 24-hour urgent care centre. It plans to convert the centre into a community intravenous clinic.
Patients not at risk: WRHA
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it's in talks with the Misericordia Health Centre to see if patients will be able to go directly to the Buhler Eye Care Centre inside the centre when urgent care shuts down but so far no agreement has been reached.
Patients will have to visit one of Winnipeg's three remaining emergency rooms for care or one of two urgent health centres but no ophthalmologist will be on site, said Dr. Brock Wright, the health authority's vice president and chief medical officer.
Wright said ER doctors are capable of treating patients with many eye emergencies but if there is a serious traumatic issue, a specialist would have to be called in.
"People can have scratches on their eyeball and an emergency physician is more than capable of looking after those kind of issues," he said.
"I mean we're not going to implement a plan that's going to put patients at any risk at all."
A spokesperson for Goertzen declined to comment citing an election law that prevents the government from advertising or promoting programs during an election.
A byelection campaign is currently under way in Winnipeg's Point Douglas neighbourhood.