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Closing Misericordia urgent care short-sighted, eye doctors tell province, WRHA

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Misericordia Health Centre, the Urgent Care entrance.</p>


The Misericordia Health Centre, the Urgent Care entrance.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/6/2017 (1088 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city's eye doctors say the planned closure of Misericordia's urgent care centre threatens the safety of their patients.

In a letter to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the province's health minister, they said the urgent care centre handles 4,500 eye emergencies a year.

They noted that with ophthalmology services centred at Misericordia, professionals at the institution's urgent care centre have become adept at treating eye patients.

"Ophthalmology's decades-old collaboration with Misericordia Urgent Care has saved the sight of countless patients," the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (EPSOM) said in a letter addressed to Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen and WRHA CEO Milton Sussman.

"Misericordia Urgent Care, unlike any other health-care facility in Manitoba, has the equipment and the staff expertise to deal with emergency eye patients and make timely and appropriate referrals."

In many cases, routine eye problems can be handled by the centre without referral, saving the health system money, the group said.

Dr. Jennifer Rahman, who chairs EPSOM, said Misericordia Health Centre's eye physicians were not consulted before the WRHA and the government decided to close the facility's urgent care centre.

"It came totally out of the blue. We were a bit blindsided, you could say, by this decision," she said.

Her organization is calling on Goertzen and the health authority to reverse their decision.

The Pallister government and the WRHA announced a major Winnipeg hospital reorganization plan on April 7. The closure of Misericordia's urgent care centre is one of the more controversial aspects of that plan.

The eye physician group said closure of Misericordia's urgent care centre could lead to loss of vision for patients — and even loss of life — if opthalmologists lost the required medical support.

However, Dr. Brock Wright, the WRHA's senior vice-president and chief medical officer, said the necessary medical backup will be in place for opthalmologists before the urgent care centre at Misericordia is closed this fall.

"I do not believe patients are at any risk of dying or losing their vision as a result of the urgent care centre closing," he said.

A team will be on hand to deal with any "code blue" situations — in which a patient's heart stops — or to offer medical advice if the facility's opthalmologists want it, Wright said.

The WRHA is also working on a plan to boost direct access to the Buhler Eye Care Centre at Misericordia, Wright said. "We are working with them on processes that would enable patients to go directly to the clinic rather than having to go through an urgent care centre or an emergency department."

While Misericordia urgent care deals with 4,500 eye emergencies per year, another 2,800 are handled by emergency departments at other hospitals, Wright noted.

He acknowledged that eye physicians and surgeons in Manitoba were not consulted before the province and health authority announced their hospital reorganization plan.

Major components of the plan, which also includes the closure of three city hospital ERs and the creation of two 24-7 urgent care centres (at Victoria and Seven Oaks hospitals), were decided upon by a relatively small group, Wright said.

He said the WRHA leadership is still confident that the broad strokes of the plan are correct. However, it never contemplated that the fine points of the plan would be implemented without broad consultation, and that's happening now, he said.

Last week, Misericordia's urgent care physicians penned an open letter condemning the planned shutdown of their facility, which will be converted into space for intravenous therapy.

NDP health critic Matt Wiebe said that given the expertise that urgent care staff at Misericordia have acquired in dealing with eye patients, he's not convinced that the planned changes will lead to a more efficient system, as proponents believe.

Told of the WRHA's plans to ensure a medical support team will remain in place, he said it sounds as if the health authority plans to establish "a mini-urgent care" unit at Misericordia.

"It’s going to take resources to make that happen, right?" he said.

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.

Read full biography


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Updated on Monday, June 5, 2017 at 5:21 PM CDT: full edit

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