Manitoba

Seven Oaks staff 'frustrated, overwhelmed' with news of accelerated ER closure

The unions representing staff at Seven Oaks Hospital say staff are frustrated and have many unanswered questions about the closure of the ER.

'They're making this up as they go along,' says head of health care professionals union

Around 250 protesters gathered outside Seven Oaks Hospital in May to criticize the decision to close their emergency room. The government has expedited plans to convert the ER to an urgent care centre. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The unions representing workers at Seven Oaks Hospital say staff are frustrated and have many unanswered questions about the closure of the ER.

The hospital's emergency department was supposed to close in September and be replaced with an urgent care centre. But the WRHA says now the timeline has been accelerated to this summer.

"There's no plan that the WRHA can point to. They're making this up as they go along. They're running into road blocks. They're running into problems of their own creation and then they have to change their plans based on some crisis that's occurred," said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals. He represents allied health professionals at Seven Oaks, including physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists and social workers.

The WRHA said the staffing levels and capacity at Seven Oaks are behind their decision.

"The staffing levels are a direct result of exactly the uncertainty the WRHA and government have been creating within our health care system," said Moroz.

The Manitoba Nurses Union said once again, nurses learned about the accelerated transition in news reports.

"It's getting really tiring finding out what your future is through a leaked memo or the media," said MNU president Darlene Jackson.

"There's so much uncertainty right now, it's very frustrating."

Jackson said this transition will put even more pressure on the city's remaining emergency departments. Last week, St. Boniface Hospital sent patients elsewhere when its emergency department reached "critical" capacity.

"Transitioning earlier to an urgent care is just going to send even more emergency patients to the three emergency departments left open that are already struggling with wait times, with both forced and voluntary overtime basically staffing their units, and a bottleneck of patients and no beds to put them in," she said.

The WRHA has long held onto plans to consolidate six emergency departments down to three, in order to streamline care in line with a report on the overhaul recommendations issued by consultant David Peachey.

"Peachey talked about, you can't close these facilities unless we've already built capacity elsewhere. St. B is showing us, we don't have capacity," said Moroz.

The WRHA says they've added 42 new medicine beds at the three big hospitals and will hire more staff to care for those patients.

'Keep the ER open'

Both unions said their members are "deeply concerned" about what will happen in emergency situations, for example when a patient has a cardiac arrest, without the same staffing levels on a trauma team or a functioning ICU.

"The government must listen to Manitobans and health care workers and reverse this decision immediately," said Michelle Gawronsky, president of MGEU, in a statement.

"They need to keep the ER open. This would end the chaos for patients and staff, and let health care workers focus on providing safe, quality patient care."

Seven Oaks held a town hall Friday afternoon with staff to answer questions of concerned staff.

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