September 26, 2017

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Outpatient adult audiology services being cut at HSC

An adult audiology outpatient program at the Health Sciences Centre is being cut. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

An adult audiology outpatient program at the Health Sciences Centre is being cut. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press) Purchase Photo Print

An adult audiology outpatient program at Health Sciences Centre is falling victim to ongoing belt-tightening efforts by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The union that represents audiologists at the Winnipeg hospital expects two of its members will lose their jobs. The outpatient program deals with patients before and after surgery.

The WRHA said Wednesday it could not immediately say how many patients were cared for annually on an outpatient basis, but the program handles some 1,400 visits per year.

As with the announced closures of Winnipeg hospital outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy programs, a service once covered by medicare is ending. Patients will have to turn to private audiology clinics for service and pay for treatment, unless they are covered by secondary health insurance plans. All changes take effect in mid-October.

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An adult audiology outpatient program at Health Sciences Centre is falling victim to ongoing belt-tightening efforts by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The union that represents audiologists at the Winnipeg hospital expects two of its members will lose their jobs. The outpatient program deals with patients before and after surgery.

The WRHA said Wednesday it could not immediately say how many patients were cared for annually on an outpatient basis, but the program handles some 1,400 visits per year.

As with the announced closures of Winnipeg hospital outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy programs, a service once covered by medicare is ending. Patients will have to turn to private audiology clinics for service and pay for treatment, unless they are covered by secondary health insurance plans. All changes take effect in mid-October.

Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, said the loss of two audiologists may not seem like a lot, but such professionals are a fairly rare breed within the public-health system.

"We literally have 14 audiologists (who are MAHCP members) throughout the province. They are very, very difficult professionals to recruit and retain within the public system," he said.

The decision to end the audiology outpatient program was made at the same time as cuts to physiotherapy and occupational therapy services but went largely unnoticed.

Réal Cloutier, the WRHA's interim president and chief executive officer, said the health region's priority was to maintain pediatric audiology outpatient services. Services involving children make up the bulk of the work in the area, and they will be maintained, he said.

"On the adult side, there was the recognition that we were a very small part of what occurs in the audiology world, that the biggest part of it was in the private sector," he said.

The WRHA expects to save $314,000 a year by eliminating the program, Cloutier said.

The MAHCP represents the allied health professionals — physiotherapists, occupational therapists and audiologists — whose jobs are on the line due to the outpatient program cuts.

The union still doesn't know how many of its members will lose their jobs, as official layoff notices have yet to be handed out, but Moroz expects dozens of his members will be impacted. He said the union might have a better handle on the severity of job losses after a Friday meeting with the WRHA.

Cloutier said there are several factors at play in determining who is laid off and who is retained.

Inpatient services in these areas are unaffected, so administrators will decide how many professionals are needed to meet those needs, and union seniority has to be considered. Affected workers may also apply to fill vacancies elsewhere in the health system, and some professionals may opt to leave for the private sector or retire, he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Larry Kusch.

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