About two months ago, the provincial government announced there would be major cuts to front-line services in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

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This article was published 14/6/2017 (1361 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

About two months ago, the provincial government announced there would be major cuts to front-line services in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

As nurses, we have been extremely vocal about the impact of these proposed cuts on the delivery of safe patient care.

While the government has assured the public that patient care will not be compromised, they have done nothing more than pay lip service to this promise.

In fact, even in the early stages, the fallout from this restructuring has had the opposite effect.

Patients are left in limbo, wondering where they will go for services.

Health-care staff are being displaced and some are unsure about whether they will be able to pay their mortgages in a few months.

Memos are being circulated across the board, demanding that staff carry out a range of cost-cutting measures, such as rationing diapers in some facilities and withholding blankets in waiting rooms.

Needless to say, these changes have exacerbated the challenges of working in a health-care system that is already stretched too thin and worsened the situation.

It seems that, in their rush to balance the provincial budget, the government has forgotten the most important thing — the very people that it serves.

Last week, it was reported that beginning as early as June 19, the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre may not be able to accept patients past 10 p.m., due to a staffing shortage.

The staffing shortage was downplayed as being a result of summer holidays.

This is simply untrue.

In its 19-year history, this urgent care centre has never had a staffing issue and currently has the highest staff satisfaction rates within WRHA hospitals.

These staffing shortages are a direct result of the government’s decision to close the urgent care facility.

In fact, several of the vacancies at the urgent care centre occurred directly after the WRHA held a forum at the Misericordia Hospital about the impending September closure.

It was also reported that, after midnight, there is usually only about one new patient per hour presenting at the urgent care centre.

While this may be true at times, more often there are usually between 14 to 25 patients waiting to be seen at 10 p.m.

That is in addition to the patients already being seen in the treatment area.

In fact, demand for urgent care services at night is so high that, not too long ago, a nurse was added to the night shift.

This facility provides care for approximately 40,000 patients annually and has the highest patient satisfaction rates and lowest wait times among all of the WRHA’s emergency departments.

From a patient-care perspective, including quality of care, timeliness and accessibility, the closure of this facility makes absolutely no sense.

The Misericordia Hospital Urgent Care is a centre of excellence, and is recognized as such in many other jurisdictions.

Sadly, this government is out of touch and is content to balance its budget on the backs of patients — many of whom are some of the province’s most vulnerable.

Thirty per cent of the patients who visited this facility in the past year are from core areas of Winnipeg.

It is a proven fact that poor socioeconomic conditions create inadequate access to important health determinants and limited transportation options make it difficult for people to reach their full health potential.

The next closest hospital, the Health Sciences Centre, is a 40-minute walk.

Without the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, it is not a stretch to conclude that many of these patients will simply go without health-care services.

This is unacceptable.

Manitobans deserve to have timely access to quality health care, regardless of where they live or how much money they have in their pockets.

This is one of the basic tenets of what it means to be Canadian, and as our country prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, we invite you to stand with us and fight for improvements to our health care system.

Visit www.PutPatientsFirst.ca and add your voice to our call for timely, quality and accessible patient care for all Manitobans.

Sandi Mowat is the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, representing more than 12,000 nurses of all designations.