One-third of rural or northern ERs in Manitoba closed this long weekend: Doctors Manitoba

Manitoba physicians are more worried than ever about staffing leading to emergency department closures in rural and northern Manitoba.

“You have one or two physicians or nurses who are down sick or can’t come in for whatever reason and there you go — you’re not able to staff and entire emergency room for a weekend,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw, president of Doctors Manitoba.

According to information gathered Friday by the group representing doctors in the province, of the 68 hospitals in rural and northern parts of the province 26 have a 24/7 emergency department, 20 are partially closed and 22 are closed full time.

“Before you start your long weekend, know where you are going to get care because things are much more complicated this summer and it is not business as usual,” said Dr. Bradshaw on Friday.

She added the issue affects the entire province because patient volumes do not change. Dr. Bradshaw explained more people will be transported to Winnipeg where wait times are already long.

The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority tells CTV it is experiencing staffing shortages, but ‘we are not foreseeing suspension of service in the region over the long weekend at this time.’

A statement said since July 18, the emergency department in Pine Falls Health Complex has been operating from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week with the support of paramedics in the emergency department.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson told CTV Friday staffing levels are watched on-going to project when and where challenges may happen.

“We’ve projected that this weekend, similar to many long weekends, will be a period where staffing is a challenge,” reads the statement. “At this time, we are taking measures to increase staffing across our sites over the weekend including call-outs to both regular and part-time staff, and approaching on-shift staff to work overtime, both of which a number of staff have already responded to.”

The WRHA may reassign staff where appropriate.

A Shared Health Spokesperson told CTV News that patient flow and staffing challenges have been well documented and reflect a larger issue all healthcare sites are experiencing across Canada.

Shared Health operates HSC Winnipeg and the spokesperson said plans are in place across the site to mitigate staffing challenges when they arise in order to maintain quality patient care, using a number of strategies like putting calls out to staff, asking on-shift staff to work overtime and temporarily reassigning staff to maintain safe operation.

There’s also longer-term work happening to recruit and retain nursing.

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