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This article was published 11/4/2017 (1492 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The community rallied following the provincial government’s decision to close the ER at Concordia Hospital.
On April 7, health minister Kelvin Goertzen announced organizational changes to how the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority operates, which included the closure of the emergency department at Concordia Hospital (1095 Concordia Ave.). With the closure of the nearby QuickCare Clinic in St. Boniface, the change will leave northeast Winnipeg without emergency or urgent care.
In response to the announcement, CUPE Local 1973 held a rally in front of Concordia Hospital on April 11. Over 100 people turned up in support of keeping the ER open.
"We’ve got community, politicians, community leaders, CUPE members, managers and directors all out here," said Ric McAlpine, president of CUPE Local 1973. "Everyone’s rallying in support."
"It feels like this community in this neighbourhood is being attacked," said Matt Wiebe, MLA for Concordia and the NDP’s health critic. "It’s personal because this hospital means so much to this community."
While Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospitals are also losing their ERs, in those cases the departments will be converted to urgent care facilities.
Urgent care facilities deal with flu-like symptoms, minor burns, headaches, sprains or fractures, and nosebleeds, while emergency rooms deal with heart attacks or strokes, major trauma or severe head injuries.
When Concordia’s ER closes, northeast Winnipeg residents will have to travel to either be Seven Oaks (2300 McPhillips St.) for urgent care or St. Boniface (409 Tache Ave.) for emergencies.
"This hospital saved my life," Wiebe told the crowd, recounting an accident he had when he was three years old that severed the artery in his wrist.
"It was an accident in the home," he said. "My parents rushed me here, because this is where you come. This is our main point of contact with the health care system."
McAlpine said that Concordia’s ER staff of "25 or so" has dealt with 183 emergencies since Jan. 1. The hospital averages 30,000 patients through emergency and urgent care annually, McAlpine added.
"That speaks volumes," he said. "We don’t have anything else in the entire northeast section of the city. This is the place that people come."
Members of the community are also voicing their concerns about the impending closure of Concordia’s ER.
"I’m upset," said Charlie Morison, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 39 years and attended the rally on April 11. "I just had my wife here, we use this hospital continuously. Why close it? It’s a cost-cutting measure, with no input from anybody who lives around here."
When North Kildonan resident Andy Regier heard the announcement on April 7, he immediately began talking to his friends, family, and neighbours.
"I was pretty shocked," he said. "They felt the same way, almost unanimously."
On April 8, Regier took to the internet, starting a Facebook group and an online petition imploring Goertzen to "Save the Concordia ER." To date, there are 1,596 signatories.
"I think level of support we’ve seen shows the concern that people in the community have for this decision," Regier said. "People have shared their stories and there’s a lot of people who are really worried."
While a timeline for the closure has yet to be announced, McAlpine said that Concordia is not included in the first phase of the changes.
"We expect 2018, in the spring maybe, before our ER closes," he said.
In the meantime, McAlpine, Regier, and others are hopeful they can change the government’s mind.
"Community support is what makes this change happen," McAlpine said.
The Herald community journalist
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112