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Eye doctors at Misericordia can't see past fall shutdown

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>'We feel very insecure and vulnerable:' Jennifer Rahman, chair of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

'We feel very insecure and vulnerable:' Jennifer Rahman, chair of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/7/2017 (1041 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Eye specialists at Misericordia Health Centre are becoming increasingly concerned they will lack the needed medical support when the facility’s urgent-care centre is shuttered in October.

The urgent-care centre’s closure is part of an overhaul plan announced in April by Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WHRA).

More than three months later, Misericordia ophthalmologists haven’t been told how necessary supports will be provided.

"Whatever happens after (the) urgent care (centre) completely closes is up in the air. It’s still being figured out," said Dr. Jennifer Rahman, chairwoman of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (EPSOM).

She said the WRHA has yet to respond to concerns her organization raised in early June. These include the need for staff to screen eye patients — particularly at odd hours — and to respond to medical emergencies or so-called Code Blue situations.

"We feel very insecure and vulnerable about the future of not just eye care, but general care at Misericordia," Rahman said in an interview Wednesday.

She said her members have contemplated making improvements to patient services at Misericordia, where the bulk of eye surgeries in Manitoba occur. Instead, the system is scrambling to meet an artificial deadline due to the closure of the Misericordia urgent-care centre.

At issue is whether there will be sufficient trained staff to support ophthalmologists on site, she said. The urgent-care doctors, who have become expert at screening and referring eye patients, recently received notice their positions are redundant. The WRHA is looking at moving them to other facilities.

It is "irresponsible" to announce the closure of a facility without having a proper plan in place that is developed with the help of front-line workers, Rahman said.

The WRHA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brock Wright, said hospital administrators have always recognized in-house medical supports would have to be established at Misericordia once the urgent-care centre is closed.

"We are working very closely with Misericordia (officials) around the planning for that, and, of course, we know that that needs to be in place before the urgent-care centre is transitioned," he said Wednesday.

Wright said the plan — still being developed — will be in place on time.

EPSOM said in June more than 4,500 of the 39,000 patient visits per year to Misericordia’s urgent-care centre involve eye emergencies. "Ophthalmology’s decades-old collaboration with Misericordia... has literally saved the sight of countless patients," the group said in an open letter to the provincial government and WRHA.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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