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This article was published 21/6/2019 (522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg hospitals facing emergency-room havoc will get 42 additional beds as soon as they can be staffed.

New acute-care beds will be opened at Health Sciences Centre (12), St. Boniface Hospital (nine) and the Grace Hospital (nine). Concordia Hospital will get 12 new lower-acuity beds.

(Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)</p>

(Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)

The beds will stay open for at least the next 12 months, and may become permanent, a Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson said Friday.

New staff will be recruited for the additional spots, and the beds will open once staff is in place.

"This decision comes as a result of a recent process that saw physician, clinical, regional and hospital leadership coming together to conduct a very thorough and informed process of system-wide risk assessment and planning, as well as performing hospital and system readiness assessments," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

On Friday, 20 temporary, over-capacity beds were in use across the WRHA, down from 73 in February.

Patient flow problems resulted in St. Boniface turning away patients on
June 12 because of a "critical" and "unsafe" level of patients, as the WRHA consolidates to three emergency rooms from six. 

On Thursday, the Free Press reported that Seven Oaks General Hospital ER will change to an urgent care centre up to two months earlier than planned — as soon as July 9, sources said.

A lack of staff is being blamed for expediting the change — mirroring issues that led to Concordia ER’s conversion to an urgent care facility June 3. Victoria General’s ER was replaced with an urgent care centre in 2017.

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said the staffing shortages behind those issues will
affect hiring for these new jobs. She called  a promise to keep the beds open for 12 months "a best-before date."

"Almost every acute facility in this city has (nurse position) vacancies, and they are using overtime — forced and voluntary — to staff their buildings," Jackson said. "There’s been so much trouble staffing permanent positions, I just don’t know how they’re going to staff these 42 new beds."

"More beds is not ever a bad thing in a system that’s already so thin and so tightly utilized," said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals. But he echoed Jackson's question, "how are they going to staff those beds?"

The 3,900-member union represents health care workers in more than 160 disciplines, including pharmacy, occupational therapy and social work.

Moroz says those jobs aren’t often considered when new spaces are created in hospitals, which puts even more strain on workers.

Moroz says his concern about the surprise of Seven Oaks's early conversion and the new beds being created are two sides of the same coin — poor planning — and it’s having a huge impact on hospital staff.

"It’s just remarkable how poorly this plan is being laid out," he said. "They’re looking at staffing levels at Seven Oaks … and over and over I’ve asked them to acknowledge that people are seeking different employment because of the way the WRHA is rolling this out."

Staff at the affected hospitals were notified of the change Thursday afternoon.

"The top priority of all our planning is first and foremost patient safety and the stability of our health care system," the WRHA spokesperson said.

tvanderhart@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @tessavanderhart