Closure of Winnipeg's Seven Oaks emergency room 'not right,' says former nurse

Dozens protested the end of an era at Seven Oaks General Hospital which will no longer have an emergency room after Monday.

NDP supporters protest change; government says urgent services will still be provided

Pam Semchych, a longtime nurse at Seven Oaks General Hospital, and her granddaughter Elize Dawn LeBreton took part in an NDP-organized protest against the closure of its emergency room. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

NDP supporters staged a campaign-style rally outside Winnipeg's Seven Oaks General Hospital on Sunday to protest the  Progressive Conservative government's plan to close its emergency room.

"It''s just not right, it's really not right, you have the facility here, you've got the staff, and you've got the people. We should still have our hospital," said Pam Semchych, a former nurse who spent 25 years working in the hospital.

As of 7 a.m. Monday, the emergency room at the hospital will close for good, leaving only three hospitals in Winnipeg with emergency departments: St. Boniface, Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital.

The hospital will now be an urgent care centre, which means staff will deal with health concerns such the flu and broken bones, but not heart attacks, severe burns or serious accident victims who will be sent to other emergency departments. 

The closure is a cause for concern for Semchych, who lives within walking distance of the hospital. The next nearest hospital is HSC. 

"When people get hurt here they get sick, they have to be able to figure out where they're going to be, [or] otherwise they're going to get shoved in an ambulance and driven across the city to an emergency," she said.

Semcych was joined at the protest by her granddaughter Elize Dawn LeBreton who held a sign reading, "Please do not close our emergency department."

"I remember going here for my Mom, my Dad, a lot of other reasons, too. I still feel it isn't right for the emergency to be shut down," said the seven-year-old. 

A month ago, the NDP and residents in the area came forward with a petition of over 7,000 signatures pleading with the government to not close the emergency room.

When it comes to the track record of the Pallister government's health policies, all that comes to the mind of Semchych is one word — cuts. 

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew stands in front of supporters outside Seven Oaks General Hospital on Sunday to protest Monday's closure of the hospital's emergency room. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

Her sentiment is echoed by NDP Leader Wab Kinew who is preparing for a provincial election on September 10 in which health is expected to be a hot issue.

"All these cuts all these closures are resulting in fewer spaces for people to be cared in [and] less health care for patients in Manitoba," said Kinew.

Kinew said he will release a health platform — which will reverse some of the decisions made by the Pallister government — when the campaign officially kicks off.

"We have a comprehensive plan: to train more nurses, to hire back nurses to hire health care professionals...[to] reopen the emergency rooms at Seven Oaks and Concordia hospital," he said.

In an email to CBC News, provincial Health Minister Cameron Friesen wrote that the urgent care centre will still be staffed by personnel with emergency experience.  

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority wrote in an email they do not anticipate any service disruptions with the changeover.