August 12, 2020

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New top doctor sees WRHA's massive overhaul as 'opportunity to redefine how we're delivering care'

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dr. Bruce Roe, the incoming chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Bruce Roe, the incoming chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/8/2017 (1104 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s new chief medical officer admits he’ll have a "tremendous amount of catch up" to do when he steps into his new role, less than a month before the first round of emergency room and urgent care closures.

That being said, Dr. Bruce Roe is visibly pleased by the opportunity to be the Authority’s next top doctor, this after two years at the helm of St. Boniface Hospital.

"What’s really exciting about this job is there’s a tremendous opportunity to redefine how we’re delivering care," says Roe, during his first interview since the Free Press learned he would take on the role, effective Sept. 5.

Roe will have a heavy hand in the daily operations of the Authority, which is in the early stages of a system-wide overhaul to health delivery. The contentious change has so far been marred by the release of information in confusing bits and pieces and almost-weekly protests and rallies.

Since the initial announcement in April, union heads have been unrelenting in their demand for specifics about staffing changes. Still, they know very little.

Two lactation consultants from Health Sciences Centre are being axed, as well as two clinical nurse specialists who work in the trauma and burn units, but for the most part unions are left with the evergreen promise that the WRHA will endeavour to make sure everyone who has a job now will still have one.

Part of the confusion for staff and the public comes from the by-election media blackout, a WRHA spokeswoman interjects to clarify.

"We lost a significant amount of momentum," she says.

So, how does Roe intend to help regain it?

"I can’t really comment too much about the communicational strategy because I haven’t been directly involved in it," he says, "but I recognize that you can design a strategy… and the living out of it doesn’t necessarily follow that strategy."

The trick for the WRHA moving forward, Roe says, is going to be about connecting "disjointed stories and really trying to bring things together as more of a whole."

Confusion about what changes have to do with trying to curb costs and what changes have to do with consolidation plans persist. The provincial government has ordered the WRHA to cut annual costs by $83 million, of which the Authority says $21 million will come from consolidation efforts.

Bt the WRHA's attempts to pitch consolidation as separate from cuts doesn't seem to be minimizing concerns, as evidenced by ongoing protests bolstered by a lack of information.

"What’s included in the plan is bold, it will cause disruptions," Roe says. "We are changing the roles of hospitals, we are changing where care is delivered for many types of patients and that, by definition, is disrupting the way we’ve always done things."

Roe knows plenty about the WRHA’s status quo. Originally from Saskatchewan, Roe trained as an internal medicine resident in Winnipeg then spent five years studying and working in endocrinology in San Francisco before returning to Winnipeg in 1999. He's been at St. Boniface ever since, working his way up the leadership ranks.

During that time, he's watched the health care budget balloon — not just in Winnipeg, but across the country and around the world.

Frankly, he says, echoing Manitoba's health minister, it just isn't sustainable.

Trying to make it sustainable is "what's exciting," he says, although he acknowledges he cannot promise it will be a "100 per cent smooth" transition.

Despite his new workload, Roe intends to keep his clinic at St. Boniface open one day a week.

"For me, it's an important part of my connection with patients, with health care delivery," he says, "it really is grounding."

jane.gerster@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @Jane_Gerster

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