Manitoba NDP emergency room plan just one piece of health-care puzzle, experts say

Click to play video: 'Manitoba NDP emergency room plan just one piece of health-care puzzle, experts say'
Manitoba NDP emergency room plan just one piece of health-care puzzle, experts say
Reopening three ER's in Winnipeg - a bold promise from Manitoba's NDP on the campaign trail this week. Marney Blunt reports on the strategy behind the announcement. – Aug 29, 2023

A promise by Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats to re-open three Winnipeg emergency rooms that were converted into urgent care centres in 2017 is a step toward re-establishing faith in the province’s health-care system, experts say, but is only one piece of the puzzle.

In an announcement Monday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said that if elected Oct. 3, his government would re-open emergency departments at the Victoria, Seven Oaks and Concordia hospitals — all of which were downgraded by the governing Progressive Conservatives in 2017.

A fourth ER, in Eriksdale, Man., would also be re-opened under the NDP plan, to serve the Interlake region.

Kinew said the multi-million-dollar cost of the project would use increased health-care payments from the federal government.

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Brandon University political studies professor Kelly Saunders told 680 CJOB’s The News that the NDP’s announcement is a good political move given the current climate.

“I think anything that the parties are promising at this point in time to help rebuild our health-care system — whether that is opening up ERs or rebuilding ERs or plans to hire more doctors and nurses — I think Manitobans are just desperate to see the dial move forward on health care,” Saunders said.

“Both parties are trying as desperately as they can to try to appeal to Winnipeg voters. We know that is where the election battleground is going to happen — in the city of Winnipeg.

“The fact that Victoria Hospital is going to be the first one is absolutely no coincidence.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba NDP promises to replace emergency departments closed by Tories in 2017'
Manitoba NDP promises to replace emergency departments closed by Tories in 2017

The former president and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the public has lost confidence in the health-care system, and that re-opening ERs is one way to start rebuilding that confidence — but it’s only one element of what needs to be done.

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Dr. Brian Postl told The News that all aspects of the health-care system need to be synced up in order to properly re-open emergency rooms, and it would be dependent on having adequate staffing and beds to meet the needs of patients who require care.

At present, he said, health-care staff are demoralized and exhausted.

“I think the issue really issue of beds and staffing and trying to rebuild public confidence in the health system, which is not a small thing,” Postl said.

“When you’ve got full-service or active emergency rooms, you really need to make sure you have a bed base that can absorb the patients that require admission, and once you have a bed base, you also need to examine the number of ICU beds.”

That need for beds, health-care consultant Ronan Seagrave says, is one of the biggest operational challenges the province faces.

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Seagrave told The News that any project aimed at solving Manitoba’s health-care woes would need to be bigger than simply re-opening emergency rooms.

“The constraints on medicine beds are leading to backups in the emergency departments … and longer wait times,” he said.

“If we’re talking about reopening three emergency departments, we’re talking about adjacent intensive care units, we’re talking about implications for associated medicine beds, potentially some other interdependencies that would have to be worked through in relation to other aspects of clinical consolidation that would occur.

“So it would be complicated.”

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