Healing Winnipeg’s Health System

In November of last year, it was reported that 3 of Winnipeg’s hospitals including Concordia Hospital, Victoria General Hospital and St. Boniface General Hospital were the worst in Canada when it comes to emergency departure wait times. Then came the news about over 80 million loss on operations of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.  WRHA operates Winnipeg’s hospitals and hosts of health programs.

To address these issues, a major change to heal the “broken” health system of the city was revealed in a news conference held on April 7th.  The plan was to shut down half of Winnipeg hospital emergency departments, leaving Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface Hospital and Grace Hospital as the primary hospitals offering emergency and full surgical services.

The other hospitals will have different roles in the system.  Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospital will be converted to 24/7 urgent care centres to handle serious, but not life-threatening cases, while Concordia’s department will be closed and no longer provide 24-hour emergency services.  The Misericordia Health Centre’s 24-hour urgent care centre will also be closed and will be converted to a community intravenous therapy clinic.

According to reports, with all city hospitals possessing critical-care units and emergency departments, “the system has evolved into an expensive, unsustainable model that is failing patients and potentially could result in harm.” Because the equipment and the medical experts are spread too thinly across the system, aside from suffering some of the longest waits for emergency-room service, Winnipeggers also suffer certain critical-health procedures in the country –  sick patients need to be transferred from one facility to another and getting test results on time and seeing specialists can be really difficult.

Milton Sussman, WRHA president and CEO explained that, “Right now, many patients wait too long for care, stay too long in hospital or need to visit multiple sites to get the care they need.” According to him, this change is the start of the process of healing Winnipeg’s health system, taking important steps that focus squarely on the patients.  WRHA and Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said that the measures being implemented will improve service and find efficiencies in the city’s health system as it will streamline and concentrate resources, rather than have them spread over multiple sites.

The changes are based on the 233-page report titled Provincial Clinical and Preventive Services Planning for Manitoba, Doing Things Differently and Better prepared by Nova Scotia consultant David Peachey which he submitted to the government in February.   According to Peachey other cities such as Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa have fewer emergency departments per capita, yet they have shorter wait times than Winnipeg.  He believes that three emergency departments will allow the WRHA to provide more focused and specialized care.

While the changes will be implemented over a 24-month period, medical experts said that the consolidation of services has already begun. Cardiac emergencies are sent to St. Boniface and Health Sciences Centre handles trauma cases; community hospital ERs are already bypassed most of the time in those situations.  Being the province’s two largest hospitals — St. Boniface and HSC will continue as full-service facilities with emergency departments.  Grace hospital on the other hand was chosen  to be the third from among the four community hospitals because it has an MRI onsite and its emergency department is currently undergoing a major redevelopment that will be completed next spring.  Dr. Brock Wright, the WRHA’s chief medical officer, said the hospital already has the best ability to take on increased surgical capacity, and its internal medicine department is also the largest of the community hospitals.

After the news came out, the big question of Winnipeggers is “how do they know if they should show up to facilities with ER or urgent care for their health issue.”

WRHA came out with a handy list of conditions where the patient should be brought to the ER:
* Heart attack

* Stroke

* Major trauma

* Severe head injury

* Loss of limb in an accident

* Severe difficulty breathing (due to an allergic reaction or another cause)

* Sexual assault

* Domestic violence

* Severe bleeding

* Any time a person is unconscious

According to the WRHA, the ER is the best bet for a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening condition (as listed above).  
On the other hand facilities that have urgent care are places for concerns that aren’t life-threatening but do need to be taken care of right away such as:
* Fever or flu symptoms

* Fractures or sprains

* Minor burns

* Headaches, earaches

* Nosebleeds

* Rashes

* Sore throat

* Urinary problems

* Vomiting

But if you are still unsure where to go, you can call the 24-hour Health Links helpline at 204-788-8200, or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257.
To further explain these revamp and changes, the WRHA will be launching a public education campaign.  A website was also created to provide information:  healingourhealthsystem.ca.


Half of Winnipeg’s ERs closing in biggest health-care revamp ‘in a generation’, retrieved April 7, 2017

Major surgery for city hospitals, retrieved April 7, 2017

Winnipeg continues to have Canada’s worst ER wait times, retrieved April 7, 2017.

Manitoba is staring down a $1 billion deficit’: Finance Minister, retrieved April 7, 2017

Is it an emergency? The difference between an ER and urgent care, retrieved April 8, 2017





About Momsiecle 136 Articles
Momsiecle is short for Momsie’s Circle. As our family start a new chapter of our lives in Winnipeg in 2009, I also started to write about my challenges and triumphs in Canada as an immigrant, my mommy stories, my everyday life experiences and everything in between. Enjoy your visit!

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