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This article was published 18/6/2019 (578 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Save the Seven Oaks ER Coalition has turned up the heat on the provincial government, joining forces with the NDP and Opposition Leader Wab Kinew in a bid to to stop the Tories from closing the north Winnipeg hospital's emergency room.

Gathered Tuesday in front of Seven Oaks General Hospital and surrounded by coalition members and supporters, Helen Zacharkiw presented Kinew with a heavy binder containing a 7,720-signature petition calling on Premier Brian Pallister and the Manitoba government to keep the ER open.

Kinew agreed to take the petition to Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

"I started working with the coalition because I am concerned that the decision to close our ER will hurt families in our community," said Zacharkiw, 78, who has lived in the Seven Oaks area for 52 years. She collected 4,000 signatures herself.

The ER at Seven Oaks as slated for closure, to be replaced by an urgent care centre in September.

When the petition was circulated last fall, a number of people who signed it "cried on my shoulder" and said the ER and ICU units had saved family members, Zacharkiw said.

"These (more than) 7,500 signatures show that as a community, we are all stronger together. The coalition is working to bring families, patients, nurses and doctors together to stand up for our right to health care," she said.

If she could speak to Pallister, Zacharkiw said she would ask him to "please think about it," and "do the right thing for the people of northwest and northeast Winnipeg."

Concordia Hospital's ER was recently converted to an urgent care centre; the city's remaining emergency rooms are at Grace Hospital, Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital.

Twice in the past two weeks, St. Boniface was forced to direct visitors away from its ER due to surges in patient volumes. An internal memo sent to staff June 12, which was leaked to media, stated the number of emergency department patients had reached "critical and unsafe levels."

Kinew said the NDP has been calling on the government to cancel its plan to close the Seven Oaks ER.

"There's really two reasons. There's the issue of providing people in northwest Winnipeg with health care. People in the community here certainly deserve to have a fully functioning emergency room with an ICU close to home," he said.

"The second reason has to do with the disaster that's unfolding in health care across the Winnipeg health region right now. The government was warned that St. Boniface Hospital was not ready for the emergency room closures and, in spite of that recommendation, the government accelerated the closure of the emergency room at Concordia — and less than two weeks later, St. Boniface Hospital emergency room had to turn away patients."

Zacharkiw said she is an example of someone who needs emergency treatment located in close proximity. She lives with lymphedema, a serious chronic condition caused by blockage of the lymphatic system which results in localized fluid retention and severe swelling in arms or legs.

"In five minutes, my life changes. If I were to travel to St. Boniface Hospital or HSC, I would never make it. Because in five minutes I need a very strong antibiotic drip because my temperature soars up to 103 (F) within three minutes, so distance would be not good," she said.

"Our northwest and northeast quadrant has lot of people. There are 450 homes being built in the north quadrant, as we speak. There are schools. Where are these people going to go for health care?"

Kinew said he'll hand the petition to Pallister as soon as possible.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca