Rural Manitoban communities need access to doctors, and they aren't available because of shortages.
As of February 2013, Manitobans found out the hard way they could not always get the care they needed at 17 hospitals.
Either their emergency departments were closed or the services had been downgraded.
Since then, many more communities have been added to the list. Vita, Altona, Teulon, Pine Falls, Boissevain and Killarney now either have emergency rooms shut, or find those ERs subject to intermittent closures. One of the problems is the NDP's inability to replace departing doctors. The Southern RHA region is short 15 to 20 physicians right now.
A Prairie Mountain Health memo identifies a need for 14 physicians throughout the region, in Baldur, Boissevain, Ste. Rose, Swan River, Melita, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Rivers and Roblin. The memo goes on to state: "there is significant concern regarding the sustainability of services along Highway 3 with the number of physician vacancies." I share those concerns. Families, seniors and businesses need to have confidence that emergency services will be available to them when and where they need it. The Minister of Health's own website states a commitment to making sure Manitobans receive quality healthcare regardless of where they live.
So what has the Minister been doing as a result of the questions we continue to pose in Question Period about ER closures and doctor shortages?
In Boissevain and Killarney, it means sharing emergency room/Acute Care on-call coverage between the towns. One day the ER is open in Boissevain, the next day it's in Killarney. In Pine Falls, she says it will be Nurse-Managed Care, and if the emergency goes beyond their ability to respond, they can always call 911 (from the emergency ward!) But however confusing that seems, it is clear that ER services are being cut because the Minister of Health has allowed doctor shortages in this part of Manitoba to become so severe. Manitoba has one of the worst doctor retention rates in the country. Health data shows that 2,200 doctors have left Manitoba since 2000.
Clearly what is needed is a long-term plan that locates and retains more doctors in rural communities. This needs to be combined with emergency interim measures to keep the situation from deteriorating any further. The NDP says that Manitobans deserve access to the health care they need where they live.
That's especially true in rural Manitoba, where deteriorating access to health care is resulting in situations where people have to drive to Saskatchewan to deliver babies or receive basic care because those services aren't available in their home communities. I encourage you to contact your local MLA's office, and the Minister of Health (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help send the message Manitobans needs health care, not empty promises.
MLA for Morden-Winkler