WEATHER ALERT

‘Ridiculous for health care in Manitoba’: Eriksdale ER temporary closure ramps up rural concerns

Advertisement

Advertise with us

A temporary closure of an Interlake hospital ER has prompted nearby First Nations communities to express concern about the future of local health care.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

A temporary closure of an Interlake hospital ER has prompted nearby First Nations communities to express concern about the future of local health care.

In response to the altered services at E.M. Crowe Memorial Hospital in Eriksdale, the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council stated this week it is “feeling neglected and discriminated against.”

The hospital emergency room (some 130 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg) will be closed until Sept. 26 because of an unplanned vacancy in the diagnostics department, the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority confirmed.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Council chairman and Lake Manitoba Chief Cornell McLean said the closure will leave neighbouring First Nations without accessible care, despite the fact Ashern’s hospital remains open 40 km northeast of Eriksdale.

The tribal council, which represents six First Nations, issued a news release stating it wasn’t consulted on the move.

Council chairman and Lake Manitoba Chief Cornell McLean said the closure will leave neighbouring First Nations without accessible care, despite the fact Ashern’s hospital remains open 40 km northeast of Eriksdale. Cornell estimated it will affect as many as 15,000 people, including the communities of Pinaymootang, Little Saskatchewan, Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.

McLean said he’s received letters of support from chiefs in the Interlake who want to meet with the provincial health department to talk about potential solutions to local staff shortages.

“There could be consultation rather than inconsideration, you know what I mean? There’s no talks at all, and the government speaks for reconciliation, meanwhile they’re taking things away,” McLean said Thursday.

He said he’s aware of the widespread problems with lack of ambulance staff and shortages of doctors and nurses. Wait times in Ashern are still far too long, despite additional beds being opened there, McLean said, prompting some residents to travel farther for emergency care.

“This is ridiculous for health care in Manitoba. We have to travel from town to town till we find a hospital, a doctor.”

Ambulances are being redirected to the nearest “or most appropriate” ER in light of Eriksdale’s closure, but inpatient admissions and primary care services in Eriksdale are continuing as usual, stated Marion Ellis, Interlake-Eastern chief executive officer.

“A physician is available in Interlake-Eastern RHA to take calls in Eriksdale’s emergency department, but without access to diagnostic services, emergency department services cannot be provided during this period,” Ellis stated.

The health authority is working with Shared Health on the diagnostics staffing shortage and expects to reopen after Sept. 26, the statement continued.

“Discussions with the local municipality and First Nation health directors regarding access to health care services are ongoing.”

Arnthor Jonasson, reeve of the Rural Municipality of West Interlake, which includes Eriksdale and Ashern, said he’s confident the hospital will reopen late this month as planned.

“We’ve been told there’s no plan to close anything permanently,” Jonasson said Thursday.

The Eriksdale ER had already been operating on limited hours. Community-based training programs for licensed practical nurses and lab technicians are necessary and work is underway to make that kind of education available in rural areas, Jonasson said.

“I have the same concerns as every community member out in the rural areas. There is a lack of staffing.”

Asked about the future of rural health care in Manitoba and the government’s plans in areas that have experienced recent hospital closures, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said she has been in touch with regional health authorities to work on reopening, specifically referencing closures in Prairie Mountain.

She said the government will work on “health human resources.”

“What I hope to see very, very soon is the reopening of those facilities,” she said during an unrelated news conference Wednesday.

“That’s our government’s goal, is to keep them open and to not have closures, and that’s why we continue to encourage our graduates from the various health professions to work in our rural communities. And individuals who live in those communities, who have deep roots in those communities, to consider the health profession, because we do need to properly staff those facilities.”

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

Report Error Submit a Tip

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Local

LOAD MORE LOCAL