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This article was published 29/4/2017 (1364 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the province pushes ahead with plans to close three Winnipeg emergency rooms, some south Winnipeg residents took to the streets this weekend in hopes of saving their local ER from the chopping block.
On Saturday afternoon, a very small but vocal group turned out in front of the Victoria General Hospital on Pembina Highway, protesting the Progressive Conservative government’s plan to convert the emergency room to a 24-7 urgent-care centre. The rally was led, in part, by NDP MLA Jim Maloway and former MLA Steve Ashton.
For Baljit Singh, who has lived in south Winnipeg for over 25 years, the issue hits especially close to home.
Three years ago, Singh's mother suffered a heart attack. His brother, who lives in south St. Vital, rushed her to the Victoria ER, where doctors were able to stabilize her. Thanks to their care, Singh says, his mother survived.
So that gave Singh, who now lives in St. Norbert, a personal incentive to join Saturday's protest.
"If we're losing this one, it's a disaster for this part of the community," he said.
The WRHA has said that closing three of Winnipeg's six ERs will streamline services and concentrate emergency resources at Grace, Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface, which will retain their ERs.
Meanwhile, ERs at Victoria and Seven Oaks will be converted to urgent care centres, while Concordia's ER will close. The current urgent care centre at Misericordia will be closed in favour of an intravenous therapy clinic.
By putting these changes into effect, health officials hope to cut wait times and save money. The decision came on the heels of a report by a Nova Scotia consultant, which was commissioned by the former NDP government.
But some of the folks who turned out to Saturday's protest said that in moving ahead with those proposed closures, the Pallister government hasn't done enough to listen to their concerns.
"It just doesn't make any sense to us," said Helal Mohiuddin, a longtime south Winnipeg resident. "They haven't properly explained the situation. When they go to do something like this, there should be some consultation.
"They should have spoken with community people, get their opinion," he added. "It should be a long process. Not just all of a sudden on a good fine morning, we hear on the news that this ER is being closed."
Victoria's ER is central to a large catchment area that includes not only south Winnipeg and the busy University of Manitoba campus, but several communities outside the Perimeter.
In a coincidence, just around the corner from the protest, fire crews were cleaning up after a morning blaze ripped through a Dartmouth Drive townhouse, which faced the Victoria ER entrance.
Witnesses say nobody was injured in the fire, which left scorchmarks and shattered windows. Still, some folks at the protest pointed out, a dangerous episode like that just underscores the value of a nearby ER.
"We are very concerned," Mohiuddin said. "When we're travelling to another part of the city, something may happen. Someone may die. Now we'll have to spend another half an hour (driving to an ER), or even more."
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.