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Seven Oaks ER closing later this month

Transformation to urgent care centre takes place July 22

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2019 (475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Seven Oaks General Hospital emergency room will be converted to an urgent care centre in less than two weeks, although questions remain as to whether Winnipeg's health system is ready for the change.

Réal Cloutier, president and CEO of the WRHA: "It really was becoming untenable to continue to provide the (ER) service for much longer."

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Réal Cloutier, president and CEO of the WRHA: "It really was becoming untenable to continue to provide the (ER) service for much longer."

Hospital staff were informed Tuesday morning the conversion would take place July 22, two months earlier than originally planned.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen and the head of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledged the timing of the move was largely dictated by a shortage of doctors and nurses at the Seven Oaks ER, particularly in the midst of summer vacation season.

"What I've heard is we have staff at Seven Oaks that's very tired," said Réal Cloutier, WRHA president and chief executive officer. "It really was becoming untenable to continue to provide the (ER) service for much longer, from the staffing perspective."

Cloutier said the hospital had been using private agency nurses to supplement staff, and it didn't have the right skill mix to properly staff the ER beyond the third week of July.


Winnipeg’s ER changes

Concordia

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

( JUNE 2019)

Seven Oaks

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

(JULY 2019)

Victoria

CONVERT TO

URGENT CARE

HSC

REMAINS OPEN

St. Boniface

REMAINS OPEN

Grace

REMAINS OPEN

Misericordia

CLOSED

Source: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Winnipeg’s ER changes

Concordia

Victoria

Seven Oaks

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

( JUNE 2019)

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

(JULY 2019)

CONVERT TO

URGENT CARE

HSC

St. Boniface

Grace

REMAINS OPEN

REMAINS OPEN

REMAINS OPEN

Misericordia

CLOSED

Source: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Winnipeg’s ER changes

Seven Oaks was set to transform into an urgent care centre in September 2019. Now, the change will ltake place July 22.

Seven Oaks

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE 

Concordia

HSC

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

REMAINS OPEN

St. Boniface

Grace

Misericordia

REMAINS OPEN

REMAINS OPEN

CLOSED

Victoria

CONVERT TO URGENT CARE

Source: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority


WRHA chief operating officer Krista Williams said health officials have been planning system-wide changes for more than two years, and is ready to convert Seven Oaks.

"We are very confident that with this change we'll help support staff at Seven Oaks hospital (and) that all of the necessary measures across our system are in place to ensure that this transition is made in a smooth way," she told reporters.

With the closure of the Seven Oaks ER, the city will be left with emergency departments at just three hospitals — half the number it had less than two years ago.

Victoria General Hospital’s ER was converted to an urgent care centre in the fall of 2017; Concordia Hospital’s was similarly redeployed last month.

The Seven Oaks ER had been slated to close in September, but staffing issues — due, in part, to the summer holiday season — have prompted the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to act sooner. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

The Seven Oaks ER had been slated to close in September, but staffing issues — due, in part, to the summer holiday season — have prompted the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to act sooner. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Seven Oaks conversion will leave the city with ERs at Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and Grace Hospital.

Seven Oaks will close its intensive care unit Sept. 20, as originally planned.

An advertising campaign will be launched to alert residents, particularly in the northwest part of the city, of the impending change, officials said.

Emergency departments are equipped to offer life-saving treatment, while urgent care centres are meant for urgent but non-life-threatening health issues, such as broken or sprained limbs, rashes and fevers, cuts and wounds and other conditions that can't wait for a doctor's appointment.

The Seven Oaks closure comes as fresh concerns are being raised about the ability of St. Boniface's ER to help pick up the slack.

The Free Press reported Monday St. Boniface officials admit they do not know when the hospital's ER expansion will be fully operational, due to a shortage of nurses.

Reaction to Seven Oaks ER closure

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he doesn't believe the health-care system is ready to respond to the ripple effects of closing another ER in Winnipeg.

"The reason the Pallister government is closing the Seven Oaks emergency room is that they have to rush forward with these plans because they’re short-staffed," he said outside the hospital Tuesday.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he doesn't believe the health-care system is ready to respond to the ripple effects of closing another ER in Winnipeg.

"The reason the Pallister government is closing the Seven Oaks emergency room is that they have to rush forward with these plans because they’re short-staffed," he said outside the hospital Tuesday.

"This is a direct result of all the other cuts they’ve been making in Winnipeg and to health care across Manitoba. It’s irresponsible and it will lead to worse outcomes for patients."

Kinew said he also believes the Seven Oaks conversion was advanced due to Premier Brian Pallister's wish to complete the change in advance of the Sept. 10 provincial election.

“It’s wrong, and I look forward to having a chance to replace him in office so that we can repair the damage that he’s made to our health-care system," he said, noting such repairs would take years.

 

 

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the early closure of the Seven Oaks ER "speaks to what a mess" the province's health-care system has been during Pallister's watch.

“They’ve sort of bungled this health-care mess so badly that… nurses and other staff are leaving,” he said of staff shortages at the hospital that precipitated the move.

The government needed to boost health budgets, not freeze them, Lamont said, noting the government's own wait times task force had once cautioned the Tories they were moving too quickly with hospital reforms.

He said he's concerned the three remaining city ERs will not be able to properly handle patient loads once the Seven Oaks department is shuttered.

 

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault, whose organization represents health-care workers at 21 sites in Manitoba, said morale is low at every facility, including Seven Oaks.

“There’s a lot of hope, but unfortunately their hope has just been squashed," Boissonneault said while rallying outside Seven Oaks. Staff thought they had until September to fight to keep their ER, she said.

"That’s the hardest part people have to understand. Everybody, every day, is starting to lose any faith in the WRHA system and how it works."

Boissonneault said north Winnipeg desperately needs to keep an ER, due to the city's sprawling nature. The northeast quadrant lost Concordia Hospital's ER last month, when it was replaced with an urgent care centre; northwest Winnipeg is scheduled to lose its ER July 22.

"When it comes to patients who need care — if you’re not breathing and you need oxygen, every second counts."

 

Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, said he's yet to receive assurances, even verbally, from those steering the city hospital reorganization that the system is ready for the changes.

When his members question management at town halls, they're told: "We're working on a plan for that," he said.

"It's just top-down decision making that is really making this a real disaster, no matter what rosy picture the WRHA paints," he said of the hospital changes.

Moroz, whose union represent a variety of allied health workers from physiotherapists and social workers to CT technologists and respiratory therapists, said his members are working short-staffed and forced to work overtime.

"We have a lot of people... who are just beyond over-worked."

The nursing shortage at St. B is due, in part, to the Pallister government's recent decision to replace the ER at Concordia with an urgent care centre. The previous plan had been to erect a walk-in clinic.

When it was learned Concordia was to receive an urgent care centre, most nurses who had been scheduled to transfer to St. Boniface to beef up its ER staff instead stayed put.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba Nurses Union said it was concerned the three remaining ERs would be unable to handle the increased patient volumes due to a lack of staffing.

"By rushing through these changes and ignoring the advice of nurses, they have created serious human resource challenges," MNU president Darlene Jackson said. "This also makes it increasingly difficult to adequately recruit and retain nurses, particularly in highly specialized areas such as emergency care."

In addition to staffing concerns at St. B, Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital are also dealing with serious capacity and workload issues, the MNU said.

While a shortage of ER nurses has been raised as a concern for many months, the WRHA and the provincial health authority, Shared Health, announced in a joint staff memo Tuesday they would launch a "system-wide strategy to expedite the hiring of nurses" to fill vacant positions.

"Efforts are underway to streamline processes for the hiring and filling of vacant positions," the memo said.

Asked Tuesday why this renewed effort was only taking place now, Friesen noted the health system is massive and complex, and it has been "at times difficult to predict the human resource implications" of the government's citywide hospital reforms.

"My message to nurses in Manitoba is: 'If you want a job, there is a job for you, and we will find ways, using creativity... and ingenuity to fill those roles as quickly as we can,'" the minister said.

According to a memo to Seven Oaks staff Tuesday, the hospital's leadership said there would be no interruption in service to patients. The transfer from ER to urgent care will occur at 7 a.m., July 22.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

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

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 6:45 PM CDT: Full write through, adds photos.

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