First Winnipeg ER shutdown to come this October

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority plans to shut down the Victoria General Hospital ER by Oct. 3 as part of sweeping changes to Manitoba's health-care system that will see half of the city's ERs shut down.

Victoria General Hospital emergency room will close by Oct. 3, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says

Half of Winnipeg's emergency rooms are closing as part of a new mandate the Pallister government has given to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to find efficiencies in the health-care system. (CBC)

The Victoria General Hospital's emergency room will shut down in October as part of sweeping changes to Manitoba's health-care system that will see half of Winnipeg's ERs close.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority plans to shut down Victoria's ER by Oct. 3. It will open an urgent care centre at the site.

The Misericordia urgent care centre will begin converting to a community IV clinic by Oct. 3 as well, health authority officials said. 

The health authority plans to close the Seven Oaks emergency room in 2018. That ER will also be converted to an urgent care centre.

Concordia Hospital's emergency room will also close by 2018.

Mandate to find $83M in savings

The WRHA said it believes patients will be better served by the consolidation of services.

"We have spread ourselves very thinly across six hospitals and that has created a lot of challenges," said Lori Lamont, WRHA vice-president and the health authority's chief nursing officer.

The Victoria General Hospital's emergency room will shut down in October as part of sweeping changes to Manitoba's health-care system that will see half of Winnipeg's ERs close. 2:11

The ER closures come after the provincial government ordered the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to cut $83 million in costs in 2017-18.

"There is widespread agreement that the current system — marked by excessive wait times, frequent medical transfers between hospitals and limited physician resources spread across too many sites — is in need of change," Lamont said.

'Breakneck speed': union

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents about 12,000 health-care staffers in Manitoba, called the WRHA's timeline for closures troubling.

"These sweeping changes were announced without community input, and it seems they are now being implemented at breakneck speed despite broad community opposition," said Shannon McAteer, the union's provincial health care co-ordinator.

"It has been abundantly clear that neither the community, nor labour, nor experts in the field were consulted in the lead-up to the government's changes to health care," said McAteer.

Manitoba Government and general Employees Union president Michelle Gawronsky says the Tories are moving too quickly on changes to Manitoba's health care system. (Ryan Cheale/CBC)
The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union expressed concern with how fast the changes are being implemented.

"We're moving too far, too fast on a health-care plan that puts cost-cutting ahead of patient care," said union president Michelle Gawronsky.

NDP health critic Matt Wiebe echoed concerns about the speed of changes.

"The timelines are incredibly tight. It's very unrealistic to expect that all the changes will be implemented and functioning as well as they should be expected to in such a short timeline," he said.

Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said his government isn't going to wait to make changes to the health care system. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)
But Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said waiting longer does nothing to benefit the health-care system.

"If people say we need to have change but you can't change my part of the system, well, then you don't have change."

The WRHA said Victoria's ER sees an average of 88 patients every day, half of whom health officials say could be treated at an urgent care centre.

Last November, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said for the fifth year in a row, Winnipeg had the worst emergency room wait times in the country.

The planned closure of Victoria General Hospital's emergency room has attracted opposition, including from Elmwood NDP MLA Jim Maloway, who protested outside the hospital in April. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

New clinical assessment units at Grace Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital and the Health Sciences Centre will assess whether patients need admission to hospital, Lamont said.

There will be no large-scale moving of patients, but they will be "congregated" differently to free up spaces for acute care patients at the three hospitals, she said.

If a patient shows up at closed emergency room with an injury, the patient will be told by a staff member to go somewhere else, Lamont said.

"We do anticipate at least initially we will need to ensure there's somebody there in the event somebody … hasn't got the information or in the heat of the moment makes a wrong choice."

The WRHA said $18 million in renovations are required to the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital, which will be taking more patients after the ER closures.

Lamont said the challenge for the health authority will be making sure it stays on target to meet its new goals.

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba

with files from Erin Brohman