A retired Brandon University professor who was involved in a major hospital consolidation effort in Toronto in the late 1990s says Dr. Bruce Roe seems to have been made the scapegoat for a botched process that was largely out of his control.

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A retired Brandon University professor who was involved in a major hospital consolidation effort in Toronto in the late 1990s says Dr. Bruce Roe seems to have been made the scapegoat for a botched process that was largely out of his control.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority parted ways with Roe, its vice-president and chief medical officer, on Wednesday.

The WRHA offered no explanation for the departure, although sources told the Free Press it was due to fallout over the provincial government's controversial hospital reform efforts.

Alan Levy, an expert in human resources and labour relations, said the problems that have been brought to light in recent weeks have more to do with the organizational culture at the WRHA — and the combative nature of the Tory government — than the performance of a single individual.

Retired Brandon University professor Alan Levy believes Dr. Bruce Roe was fired from the WRHA because of the culture at the organization. (Colin Corneau / Brandon Sun files)</p>

Retired Brandon University professor Alan Levy believes Dr. Bruce Roe was fired from the WRHA because of the culture at the organization. (Colin Corneau / Brandon Sun files)

"I think there's a larger problem and, to some extent, he's being the fall guy," Levy said.

Consultant Dr. David Peachey delivered a 72-page assessment of the hospital reform process four weeks ago, prompting the Manitoba government to place a six-month pause on some of its planned changes. The report also spurred the province to replace Concordia's ER with an urgent care centre, instead of a walk-in clinic, as it originally planned.

Peachey wrote that an exodus of doctors, nurses and other professionals from Concordia in recent months had raised questions about patient safety. He described "deep-seated unhappiness" among ER doctors and nurses throughout the city. And he raised questions about the ability of St. Boniface Hospital's emergency room to deal with additional volumes once Concordia's ER was shut down.

Levy said it's apparent that the provincial government has moved too quickly in instituting the changes. From an outsider's perspective, it also appears that the system overhaul has been a top-down process.

"It's 1950s management. 'You're going to do what we tell you to do and be happy you have a job.' That's nonsense. The world doesn't work like that anymore," he said.

Dr. Bruce Roe had been the WRHA's vice-president and chief medical officer since September 2017. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Dr. Bruce Roe had been the WRHA's vice-president and chief medical officer since September 2017. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Levy, originally from Winnipeg, spent 25 years working in health administration in Toronto, where he was heavily involved in the consolidation of services and administrative functions of three hospitals with a total workforce of 20,000. The process took five years.

The amalgamation went relatively smoothly without a major union grievance being filed, he said.

"Clearly, with this kind of organizational change, there's going to be conflict," Levy said of the Winnipeg situation. "So the way in which you do it is you don't ram it down people. You have to do this in a collaborative, positive fashion. You've got to get the unions behind you."

That means meeting workers, floor by floor, in each hospital and listening to concerns, setting up bear-pit sessions, if necessary, between doctors and nurses and senior management in a manner that assures staff that there will be no consequences for speaking out, he said.

The Pallister government's often adversarial approach has not helped, the retired prof said.

Consultant Dr. David Peachey delivered a 72-page assessment of the hospital reform process four weeks ago, prompting the Manitoba government to place a six-month pause on some of its planned changes. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Consultant Dr. David Peachey delivered a 72-page assessment of the hospital reform process four weeks ago, prompting the Manitoba government to place a six-month pause on some of its planned changes. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"The premier always wants a fight, whether it's the federal government (or) the unions. He's always up for a fight. Well, it's the wise person who knows how to resolve conflict," said Levy, who continues to work as a mediator and arbitrator.

Under the government's hospital reform plan, six emergency rooms in Winnipeg are being reduced to three. The three facilities losing their ERs will get urgent care centres (treating non-life-threatening conditions) in their place. Several other health services are being shifted around the city in the massive reorganization.

While he has no position on whether the government's overall plan is correct, Levy said he is concerned when he hears proponents say that the Winnipeg plan is based on ideas that have worked elsewhere.

He believes major changes, such as the ones Winnipeg's hospitals are undergoing, must be home-grown.

"The needs of Winnipeg aren't the needs of any other city in the country," he said.

 

larry.kusch@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.

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