Original Published on Jul 12, 2022 at 15:04

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Another rural Manitoba emergency department has reduced its hours, as health care staff shortages in southwestern Manitoba continue to close ER doors and reduce hours for emergency care in the area.

Last Monday, the Prairie Mountain Health Region (PMH) announced that because of staffing shortages there would be reduced hours and some temporary closures at several emergency departments in southwestern Manitoba throughout the summer.

PMH is now warning residents in the Grandview area that their emergency department will no longer be available at all during the weekends and will likely not open back up on the weekends for several weeks.

In a Monday statement, PMH said that they expect the weekend closures at the ER in Grandview, a community of about 1,400 residents that sits about 45 kilometres west of Dauphin, to continue until sometime in early September, but did not give any firm date for when a weekend reopening could happen.

Grandview Mayor Dwayne Bomak said the new reduced hours and the lack of any emergency department during the weekend in the community is something that is “very concerning.”

“It is very concerning for all of us because it affects all of us, and it affects young and old,” Bomak said.

According to Bomak, there are a high number of elderly and aging residents in Grandview, which has him concerned because when the doors to the ER in Grandview are closed on the weekends, the nearest emergency department is now more than a 40-minute drive away, in the city of Dauphin.

“I am extremely concerned about how this will affect the elderly population in this community, because some drive and some don’t drive, so to just be able to go down the street to the local ER is an important service in any community,” he said.

Bomak said that even with the current paramedic and emergency services in place in the community, he is still concerned because if an ambulance picks up someone with an emergency on the weekend, it will take far longer to get them to where they can get emergency health care services.

“With emergencies, the difference between life and death could be just a matter of minutes, so extra time on the road is a very scary thing because there is always the chance someone won’t make it,” Bomak said.

“The ambulance can’t be a saving grace all the time.”

In their announcement last week, PMH said emergency departments and hospital admissions in Melita and in Treherne have been temporarily suspended, while there will also be reduced hours at other emergency departments, including the one in Grandview, as well as one in Souris.

Bomak said he lays some of the blame for the closures on the province, because of the current state of health care in rural Manitoba. He said the province needs to be doing more to attract and retain health care workers to work in rural areas.

“My concern would be directed more towards the province for the position we are in, because there are so many vacancies at clinics around here, that if you get even one or two people calling in sick, then you just have to close the whole clinic for the day,” Bomak said.

“It’s been like this for a long time, and staffing, from what I can see is just not being properly addressed.”

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to the province for comment on the closures and reduced hours, and in an email a provincial spokesperson called staffing issues in rural Manitoba “longstanding” and “ongoing.”

“Longstanding staffing challenges and physician availability in less populated areas of the province have been an ongoing challenge for decades. These challenges often result in reduced hours of operation, shared on-call service, or long-term service suspensions for EDs in some communities,” the spokesperson said.

“Rural regional health authorities continue to take many measures to recruit and retain health care staff to rural regions. Our government continues to invest in health care staffing across the province, including a plan to add close to 400 new Nursing Education Seats, and the addition of 35 paramedics.”

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