Original Published 18:13 Apr 11, 2022

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Manitoba MLA says he wants to know why one of the busiest hospitals in northern Manitoba continues to deal with a lack of hot running water in some areas of the facility, and why the province isn’t showing more urgency and doing more to get the problem fixed.

“It’s unthinkable that a large hospital like Thompson would be left without hot water for any length of time,” Flin Flon NDP MLA Tom Lindsey said last week while speaking in the Manitoba Legislature.

Lindsey’s comment, which were directed at Health Minister Audrey Gordon, were made after reports surfaced recently that some parts of the Thompson General Hospital have been without hot water for more than a week because of plumbing and mechanical issues.

Lindsey said he does not believe a lack of hot water is something that would be allowed to continue for more than a week at any Winnipeg hospital, so he can’t understand why it continues in Thompson, a city of about 13,000 residents that sits more than 750 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and is the largest city in northern Manitoba.

“Imagine the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg trying to operate with no hot water,” Lindsey said.

“What makes Thompson General Hospital any less important to this minister and this government?”

Gordon responded last week to Lindsey’s comments in the legislature by stating she believed health officials in the north would work to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.

“I have full faith in the staff at Thompson General Hospital,” Gordon said. “The regional health authority has a strong leadership team, and I’m sure it’s being looked at as we speak.”

But on Monday morning, a Northern Health region spokesperson told the Winnipeg Sun that the hot water issues continue in sections of the Thompson General Hospital including in the emergency room, and that they could not say for sure when those issues would be fixed, although it would likely not be any time soon.

“Our best estimate is about a month for the Emergency Department, and by the end of April for the wards/rooms affected,” the spokesperson said.

“Due to equipment failures, two separate systems involving hot water delivery are having intermittent issues in specific areas of the Thompson General Hospital. Temporary hot water solutions are being implemented as part of contingency planning.

“In a separate issue, some patient areas have low, poor or no hot water. Parts are shipping from the Manitoba supplier on April 19th. Contingencies are underway to address all of these areas while we await parts and have them installed.”

The spokesperson said that delivery of some of the needed parts has been “abnormally slow due to well-documented supply chain issues.”

The spokesperson also claimed the hot water issues are having no negative effects on levels of service and patient care at the hospital, but they did admit they have caused “inconvenience” for some patients.

“Hospital operations have not been impacted,” the spokesperson said. “Northern Regional Health Authority acknowledges and regrets that some patients have been inconvenienced; however, safe patient care remains our priority as a health region.”

On Monday, NDP leader Wab Kinew reacted to the hot waters issues at Thompson’s hospital in a statement to the Winnipeg Sun, and like Lindsey, he questioned if that kind of issue would be allowed to persist for that long if it were happening in Winnipeg.

“Hot water is a basic service and it’s essential for a hospital to function safely,” Kinew said. “If this happened in Winnipeg, there would be a major outcry. We should be just as concerned when it happens in northern Manitoba.

“Northern families deserve a government that fixes problems and makes their health care a priority.”

This item reprinted with permission from Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg, Manitoba