They say the only constant in life is change, and here we are at the beginning of a generational change in the delivery of health care in Manitoba.
For those that may still be unaware, the province has announced an overhaul of the delivery of health care in the City of Winnipeg, a service many of us living in communities surrounding Winnipeg know all too well. The plan will see two of the city’s emergency departments replaced by urgent care centres and a third one closed altogether.
Of course that is a highly simplistic overview, as there are many components involved including consolidating surgery at three hospitals and using the remaining facilities for enhanced convalescent, mental health and rehabilitation services.
The obvious question some may be asking is, why are we changing the status quo? The facts are indisputable. For the last several years, Winnipeg hospitals, according to a national health report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, have claimed the unenviable title of having the longest emergency room wait times in Canada, averaging 6.5 hours as compared to a national average of 3.1 hours.
These long ER wait times have persisted despite the previous government throwing billions of tax dollars at the health care system. On a per capita system, Manitoba spends the second most on health care as compared to any other province.
The situation of health care waits even led to the former government hiring an independent consultant, Dr. David Peachey of Nova Scotia, to review the Winnipeg ER situation and make recommendations. Dr. Peachey’s report concluded that, "the system has evolved into an expensive, unsustainable model that is failing patients and could potentially result in harm."
One would be inclined to think that surely, more ERs is better than less? Perhaps intuitively that sounds right, but in practice, the evidence says otherwise. Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa all have fewer ERs than Winnipeg despite all having larger populations, in some cases double.
I am in no way trying to diminish the stress these changes will have on staff and patients, but I also want to make clear that the doing nothing was not an option. We have listened to Manitobans and they have made it clear that the current system has not been delivering the quality of care that they and their families expect and deserve.
This is a generational change to the delivery of our health care system, but one I am confident will ensure quality, sustainable patient care for generations.
For more detailed information on the changes you can go to www.healingourhealthsystem.ca
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