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This article was published 30/5/2017 (1137 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Doctors at Misericordia Health Centre are decrying a government decision to close the facility's urgent care centre as part of a citywide hospital reorganization.
They say the centre serves a vulnerable population with complex chronic-health, social and mental health needs.
In an open letter circulated to the media Tuesday, the MDs said many of their patients can't afford to travel outside of the area to seek care at other facilities.
"With the closure of our urgent care centre, the alternative will be that many will need to walk to Health Sciences Centre or St. Boniface, call for an ambulance or not seek care at all," the letter, signed by two dozen physicians, states. "In our opinion, there is certainly no patient-care justification for this closure."
The hospital overhaul plan released last month by the province and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority states Misericordia's urgent care centre will be closed and the space used for other medical purposes.
The master plan calls for emergency departments at Seven Oaks, Concordia and Victoria hospitals to be closed. The emergency rooms at Seven Oaks and Victoria will be converted to urgent care centres, which are designed to deal with non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
The Misericordia doctors said their urgent-care centre functions in many ways like an emergency centre but at a cost of about half of what it takes to fund a full emergency department.
The WRHA said Tuesday the Misericordia urgent care centre is scheduled to close sometime this fall. A specific date has not yet been determined, an official said.
The Misericordia physicians said they are hoping the government and the WRHA can be persuaded to reverse their decision.
Even from a cost-savings perspective, the closure is "indefensible," they said, noting 80 per cent of Misericordia's budget is made up of labour costs and the government and the WRHA claim there will no loss of front-line care positions.
Responding to Opposition questions about the physicians' letter in the legislature Tuesday, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the hospital reorganization is being carried out to improve the overall health system.
"What is indefensible is people waiting hours and hours and hours for care when they go to an emergency room," he said. "This is about building a system so that when people go to an emergency room or to an urgent care centre, they get the right care at the right place at the right time."
Dr. Brock Wright, the WRHA's senior vice-president and chief medical officer, said he appreciates the Misericordia physicians' concern but the region has plans in place to care for vulnerable patients.
"They’re speaking out because they have concerns, and I respect that," Wright said. "But I’m also very confident that we can address those issues."
Wright said about 11,400 patients who visit Misericordia's urgent care centre each year are from the neighbourhood surrounding the hospital, located between Sherbrook and Maryland streets at Cornish Avenue. Another 6,000 travel from River Heights, while 18,000 others arrive from other parts of the city.
Wright said in the future he expects most vulnerable Misericordia patients will choose Health Sciences Centre, with some going to St. Boniface Hospital.
"The HSC sees a particularly vulnerable population… and has established a number of relationships with the community over the years to address the unique needs of that vulnerable population," he said.
Dr. John Sokal, medical director of HSC's adult emergency department, said his hospital has a program to work with impoverished patients and those with psycho-social needs. The hospital and WRHA work to connect these patients with community physicians and service agencies, he said.
"We’ve done hundreds of care plans for such patients over the years," Sokal said, referring to folks in the Point Douglas and downtown areas. "And we’ve developed special relationships with a number of care providers, clinics and agencies in the area."
He said these services would be extended to the area now served by Misericordia.
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