If there's anything that can unite young and old, union and non-union, political party member and non-member, it is the announced closure of a hospital emergency room.
About 400 protesters gathered outside Concordia Hospital on Wednesday at noon to hear speeches from area residents, a union leader and local MLA criticizing the Pallister government's health-care transformation plan that includes closing the northeast Winnipeg facility's emergency room and replacing it with a walk-in clinic.
The protesters — several times chanting "Save Our ER" — vowed to keep fighting all the way to the ballot box during a possible upcoming Manitoba election. Holding signs that read: "Stop the Health Care Cuts," area residents said it’s too far and too unsafe to go to another hospital in an emergency.
"My late father was rushed to Concordia’s ER — they took very good care of him," Justin Pennell said. "If Concordia wasn’t here, it is possible he would have passed away in an ambulance.
"When a person is ill and has to be rushed further, those minutes count. This is personal to me."
The province's hospital plan has already closed Victoria General Hospital’s ER and replaced it with an urgent care centre, while Misericordia Health Centre's urgent care centre was closed.
In September, the emergency room at the Seven Oaks General Hospital will become an urgent care centre.
While Concordia's ER was slated to close next month, doubts have recently arisen on the timeline.
When Health Minister Cameron Friesen was asked last week what day the ER would close, at first, he wouldn't say. He later said there was a "remote possibility" the closure was being reconsidered due to orthopedic surgery being performed there (surgeons have expressed concern whether there would be adequate medical backup if the ER closed).
Kyla Williams, with her eight-month-old daughter, Zoe, in a stroller, said she worries what would happen to her child in an emergency if Concordia's ER is shuttered.
"If there's ever an emergency, I live five minutes from here," Williams said. "There's a large area of Winnipeg this hospital is for. And there's the wait times at other hospitals.
"We should at least get an urgent care centre and not a walk-in clinic."
Concordia NDP MLA Matt Wiebe said he wasn't just fighting the ER closure as a politician and a person who was born inside its walls — he was fighting for what the ER did for him when he was three years old.
"Thirty-seven years ago, the ER here saved my life," Wiebe said. "I still have two three-inch scars on my wrist — I was seconds away from death... I went through a plate glass window at our home. My brother and sister got my parents.
"My main artery was cut and my blood was spurting right to the ceiling... This is my story, but everyone has a story here," he said. "This ER cuts deep in this community.
"If they think they can take this emergency without a fight, they are wrong."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.