Winnipeg Sun: Concordia ER conversion set for Monday; Seven Oaks on tap for September

external view of concordia hospital

May 30, 2019

The province’s controversial plan to shut one Winnipeg emergency room is coming earlier than expected.

Concordia Hospital’s emergency room will be converted to a 24/7 urgent care centre on June 3, around three weeks earlier than planned, in order to cope with inadequate staffing issues in the north Winnipeg ER.

“The decision to transition to urgent care on June 3 was because there was insufficient staff to sustain an emergency department,” said Dr. Brock Wright, chief executive officers of Shared Health, who was flanked by Winnipeg Regional Health Authority president and CEO Real Cloutier and Dr. Ainslie Mihalchuk, chief medical officer at Concordia at the WRHA on Wednesday. “We recognized though that is short notice.”

The conversion of the Seven Oaks Hospital emergency room is still on track for September.

Wright said that given the hastiness of the conversion, Concordia will continue to operate a critical care unit to help ease the transition.

Initially, the province’s healthcare reforms targeted Concordia to be converted to walk-in clinic. That was changed earlier this month after Dr. David Peachey, who provided the blueprint for the sweeping healthcare changes, was brought back review the progress made.

Wright admitted that there were differences of opinion on the initial plan at Concordia, and said the lesson learned here is that analysis needs to be done earlier and concerns need to be addressed quicker going forward.

“I’m confident that the right decision has been made, and pleased the one positive in this is that it does demonstrate the system is prepared to make changes, even when those changes are difficult,” Wright said.

Not everyone was pleased with Wednesday’s announcement, however.

The president of the Manitoba Nurses Union said Wednesday’s announcement was another curveball they need to dodge.

“Nurses are frustrated, they’re confused,” Jackson told reporters at the Manitoba Legislature. “I had trouble looking at how they were going to accomplish this by June 25. I have no idea how, five days down the road, we’re going to convert an ER to an urgent care.

“I don’t believe that there’s a plan in place.”

Jackson said the MNU, which represents over 12,000 nurses in the province, has not received any explanation about how staffing changes at Concordia can work with such little notice.”

“We have to go back to the drawing board and re-write history on all of those nurses that had made other decisions,” she said.

Jackson believes the decision is a “rushed and reckless” attempt to repair a “broken plan.”

“It’s abundantly clear that the Pallister government has no idea what to do about a mess of their own creation,” Jackson said.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, meanwhile, said we’ve been down this road before.

“Manitobans should remember that the ER at Misericordia was first converted into an Urgent Care centre before this government closed it completely,” an email statement from the union said. “Our fear is that this government plans to follow the same path at Concordia and the people of Northeast Winnipeg will be left without with an ER or Urgent Care. The provincial government should listen to local residents and just keep their ER open.”

Cloutier said staffing issues are still being sorted out on Wednesday, with both Shared Health and the WRHA expected to meet with the unions later Wednesday and over the rest of the week. The number of beds needed for the urgent care unit has also yet to be determined.

“We do have to some unwinding to do here,” Cloutier said. “My sense with the unions is we are going to have their collaboration around this.”

Cloutier said that he met with Victoria Hospital staff last week and said the confidence and the outcomes they’ve achieved is very different from where they were 18 months ago.

“There is part of this process where let’s adjust the plan, but let’s not linger forever around how long this is going to take,” Cloutier said. “It’s a balance between we’ve got to make sure it’s safe, we have to make sure it’s balanced, but dragging things out for long periods of time also has its consequences.”

Most Concordia ER nurses have already selected new positions. The MNU said this is going to create massive human resources challenges and nurses left scrambling.

“We are hearing that lots of the of the staff who previously worked at Concordia are excited at the opportunity to come back,” Mihalchuk said.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said it’s both realistic and safe to assume that Concordia can convert from an ER to urgent care in five days.

“I can tell you there’s been an awful lot of planning in the background to make sure we have a robust level of care in place,” Friesen said.

sbilleck@postmedia.com

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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