Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Doctor shortages imperil Westman emergency care

Minnedosa could shutter service

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Minnedosa could be the second Westman community to face an emergency-room crisis this summer as doctor shortages continue to plague the Prairie Mountain Health authority.

Minnedosa lost two physicians earlier this year, leaving just four doctors to provide emergency services in the community.

Then, in early July, a doctor hired to fill a vacancy quit after just one day on the job.

"As a community we are very concerned about it,"àMayor Ray Orr said. "We don't want to be in a position where we have to shut down our emergency ward."

The doctor shortage was further compounded when a long-serving physician gave notice she would be ending her Minnedosa practice and no longer working on call in the emergency room, effective immediately. The notice means the community is left with three doctors working in the ER.

'As a community we are very concerned about it. We don't want to be in a position where we have to shut down our emergency ward'

-- Minnedosa Mayor Ray Orr

Orr said he's heard from several residents who are worried about the possible closure of the emergency room. He has also been in contact with the regional health authority and said he believes PMHàis doing its best to remedy the problem.

While the short-term solution continues to hinge on the ability to attract doctors to Minnedosa -- or any rural community for that matter --Çthe long-term solution may lie in the construction of a new state-of-the-art health facility anchored between Minnedosa and Neepawa.

"One of the things that we're looking at doing is the possible construction of a new medical clinic facility that will be more modern and have all of the amenities that a new doctor or specialist might be looking for,"àOrr said.

Orr said he hopes the new facility will provide doctors with a greater ability to practise and specialize in an area of medicine they are both trained in and passionate about.

Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson said there is a possibility the Minnedosa emergency room will have to shut its doors in the near future.

"Emergency services have been covered until the end of August, but we do anticipate there will be some disruption or suspension of services in the fall as a result of reduced physician compliment in the community," Gilson said.

Michelle McKay, the director of medical services for the region, recently told the Minnedosa Tribune changes in physician levels have left PMH "with a huge loss."

"It is a very difficult situation and it does provide a huge amount of workload for the remaining physicians (in Minnedosa),"àMcKay said.

News Minnedosa could soon lose its emergency room comes on the heels of a decision to halt full-time emergency services in Killarney following the resignation of two doctors at the Tri-Lake Health Centre.

Killarney now pools physician resources with Boissevain to ensure one on-call doctor, who alternates between the communities, is available at all times.

But the situation is poised to get worse before it gets better as doctors in Melita and Deloraine are set to resign before the end of the summer.

The further shortage means a new strategy will have to be initiated soon.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and pending physician vacancies in Deloraine and Melita over the summer, we are going to be developing a new service plan for the fall for the No. 3 highway,"àGilson said.

Melita, Deloraine, Boissevain and Killarney have shared on-call emergency services in the past.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 A12

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