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Ste. Anne hospital cutting back ER hours due to shortage of doctors

The Ste. Anne emergency room is cutting back its hours due to a shortage of doctors.
The Ste. Anne emergency room is cutting back its hours due to a shortage of doctors. Kevin Hirschfield / Global News

A rural Manitoba emergency room is being forced to cut back its hours due to a shortage in doctors.

For the next six weeks, the emergency room in Ste. Anne will be open from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m., seven days a week, instead of 24/7.

“Currently they are down to 4-5 physicians to keep the emergency room open,” Denis Fortier, VP of Medical Services/Chief Medical Officer at Southern Health-Santé Sud said.

“Recently one left on mat leave, another one has an injury, so it’s been stressing the resources to a certain degree with not a quick end in sight.”

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The Ste. Anne ER treats 13,500 patients a year, which the health authority considers one of their busiest small-town ER’s. Fortier said the Ste-Anne hospital has never had to do this before and ideally they would like 10 doctors who can work in the emergency room.

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It was done in a “strategic manner” and they should still be able to see most patients, as they say 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. is the busiest time, he added.

Therese Bourgouin lives nearby the hospital and worries about what happens if she has an emergency at night.

“It’s disappointing, we have lot of elderly people (who live close),” Bourgouin said.

“If you get really really sick and you cannot come, what do you do?

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Ste. Anne resident Therese Bourgouin worries what may happen if she has an emergency at night.
Ste. Anne resident Therese Bourgouin worries what may happen if she has an emergency at night.

The closest emergency room for those who typically use the Ste. Anne ER is in Steinbach at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre, around a 15-minute drive.

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Fortier suggests going to Steinbach or to Winnipeg, and says Steinbach should be able to handle any increase in patients as they are staffed to take in 20-30,000 patients a year.

Justin Neufeld, who lives in the nearby town of Randolph, says his family always comes to the Ste. Anne hospital and they worry about the wait in Steinbach.

We’ve been there before for many hours,” Neufeld said. “We come to St. Anne and get looked at right away and issues get taken care of.”

Justin Neufeld lives in the nearby town of Randolph and says the service at the Ste. Anne ER is much quicker than Steinbach.
Justin Neufeld lives in the nearby town of Randolph and says the service at the Ste. Anne ER is much quicker than Steinbach.

The hospital will now regroup for the next six weeks and get together at the end of November to discuss their next move.

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“It will give some breathing space for physicians so they can re-evaluate what they can do on a go-forward basis,” Fortier said.  “We’re also looking at recruiting and some other options.”

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They hope to be back at 24/7 by December, but said the cutbacks could last longer.

“We want to be careful and cognizant of the long term health effects of making our staff and physicians work harder than they can,” Fortier said.

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He said two-thirds of residents who use an ER in the region don’t actually require emergency care and insists people should assess whether they actually need to go to an ER before making the trip.

“If your care is less urgent, please consider other options like primary care, etc.”

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New Selkirk hospital could help rural doctor shortage
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