ER doctors won't have to reapply for their own jobs, WRHA says after 'misunderstanding' due to letter

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is reassuring emergency room doctors after a letter was sent out last week leaving some believing they'd have to reapply for their own jobs.

Letter was intended as official advisory about closure of Misericordia Urgent Care Centre: WRHA

Vice president of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Dr. Brock Wright said the authority will work with displaced doctors to find them positions within the Winnipeg medical system. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is reassuring emergency room doctors after a letter was sent out last week leaving some believing they'd have to reapply for their own jobs.

WRHA vice-president Dr. Brock Wright said the letter was intended as an official advisory of the closure of the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre slated for this fall and a message to doctors there that the WRHA will work with them to find new positions in the system.

But some physicians from other hospitals who also received the letter were left with the impression their positions weren't safe, either.

"There was some misunderstanding," Wright said.

The Misericordia Urgent Care Centre is scheduled to close this fall as part of a major revamp of Winnipeg health care announced in April, which will see two of the city's six emergency departments replaced with urgent care centres. A third emergency room will be shut down altogether.

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen stressed Monday that the overall number of hours worked by emergency room doctors won't change during the restructuring. Instead, emergency departments at the Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface and to a lesser extent the Grace Hospital will be expanded.

"The number of hours that's going to be provided is going to remain exactly the same. They'll be provided in different sites, obviously, and that's already been previously announced," he said.

Qualified doctors displaced by closures will have first dibs when new positions are added. But if some physicians coming from the urgent care centre don't have the medical experience to work at a trauma centre like the HSC, Goertzen didn't rule out the possibility that they won't get the job. 

"We're not going to put a medical professional who isn't well-skilled into a place where they aren't going to be able to provide the service that patients need," Goertzen said.

"So we'll rely on those who are making the changes in the system to ensure that people with the right skills are in the right place."

The WRHA is working individually with doctors from the affected hospitals to find their best fit, Wright said.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province is working to prevent misunderstandings. (CBC)

Uncertainty among doctors, nurses

Confusion resulting from last week's letter led the head of Doctors Manitoba, which represents more than 3,000 physicians in the province, to send a letter to the WRHA asking for more clarity.

Sandi Mowat, the president of the MNU, told CBC News emergency room nurses have gotten similar notices to the letter sent to doctors last week.

"It's the same concerns nurses are having," she said.

"We have ER nurses who choose to work in emergency because that's the kind of work that they like to do and so they have the same uncertainty, where are they going to be in October and what kind of a position will they end up with."

Goertzen said the province is working with Doctors Manitoba and the Manitoba Nurses Union to make sure all staff have the best possible information about the changes.

"While I would like to promise that there will never be any misunderstanding or any disruption in a change, I couldn't make that promise whether we were making changes to the system or not," Goertzen said.

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba

With files from CBC's Aidan Geary and Kelly Malone