September 24, 2020

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Seven Oaks switch: urgent care centre opens amid little fanfare

Maryjane Duck, 50, said she was fine with the predicted 5 1/2-hour wait to see a doctor Monday morning — as long as she didn't have to go the Health Sciences Centre. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Maryjane Duck, 50, said she was fine with the predicted 5 1/2-hour wait to see a doctor Monday morning — as long as she didn't have to go the Health Sciences Centre. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/7/2019 (429 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The transition to urgent care centre from emergency department at Seven Oaks General Hospital was either frustrating or smooth — depending on who you ask.

Maryjane Duck, 50, said she was fine with the predicted 5 1/2-hour wait to see a doctor Monday morning — as long as she didn't have to go the Health Sciences Centre.

"I don't like the HSC," said Duck. "It's too rough."

The downtown resident, whose home is closer to the HSC, was planning to take the bus to Seven Oaks for kidney dialysis Monday afternoon, she said, but was so weak and having such difficulty breathing in the morning, her daughter called an ambulance.

Seven Oaks' transition to an urgent care centre from an emergency department became official at 7 a.m. Monday.

Hospital staff were informed July 9 the conversion would take place July 22, two months earlier than originally planned by health authorities.

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

On Monday, the emergency department signage was replaced by "urgent" care signs, and the transition occurred without any problems, WRHA spokesman Cory Kolt said.

Would-be patients, however, were not so sure.

Menka Lozanova arrived at urgent care at 8 a.m., to get checked for recent dizzy spells; at 11:30, she was still waiting.

"What can I do?" said Lozanova, leaning against a pillar outside the hospital to steady herself. The woman said she knew Monday was the transition day for the emergency department, but it was the first day she's had off work since feeling unwell and the only time she could afford to seek medical attention.

"When you are going to a family doctor, you need to wait," said Lozanova, who was leery about an extended time for such an appointment. "My daughter was so scared — what can I do?"

Another woman — a home care worker seeking medical care outside of her work hours who didn't want her name published — went to a clinic nearby and was told if she needed to see a doctor, she should go to Seven Oaks urgent care. At urgent care, she was told she'd have to wait 5 1/2 hours.

She said she had to work later Monday in Steinbach and couldn't wait that long — and planned to visit a walk-in clinic near Concordia Hospital.

"It's only going to get worse," said one senior, who'd parked her car and was helping her elderly female passenger get to an X-ray appointment. They'd also just been to a family doctor, where they had an appointment but still had to wait more than an hour to see the physician.

The health-care system is struggling to meet the needs of patients, said the woman who declined to give her name. "It's just going to get worse and worse."

However, that's not been the experience at the first of the three Winnipeg hospitals to have its emergency department converted to an urgent care centre.

Victoria General Hospital has reported a wait times drop of 30 per cent, amid a 59 per cent increase in walk-in patients, a provincial spokesperson said in an email sent Sunday to the Free Press.

Approximately two-thirds of all patients who previously sought emergency care at Seven Oaks can receive proper treatment from an urgent care centre, the spokesperson said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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