Doctor shortages continue to plague Prairie Mountain Health, forcing emergency room closures and causing administration to take a hard look at its options for 2014 and beyond.
On Dec. 18, PMH executives met with health professionals to discuss a solution for Highway 3, where at times three communities are sharing emergency room services at one hospital.
A source with knowledge of the meeting told the Sun that one of the proposals could mean two hospitals lose emergency room services in favour of central sites.
Melita, Deloraine, Boissevain and Killarney have all had on-call emergency room services in the past, but the new proposal would see Deloraine and Killarney closed on the weekends. PMH would keep Melita and Boissevain emergency rooms open.
“It’s not something for us,” the source said. “It has been phrased as a ‘temporary’ closure, but we know nothing is temporary when it comes to the health authorities.”
PMH CEO Penny Gilson confirmed there were a series of “options” that were suggested at the meeting, but stressed no decision has been made.
Gilson said with limited resources, PMH is going to have to make some decisions about how to deliver the highest quality of care.
“All the options are on the table,” she said. “Staff are looking at the details about whether we continue with the current model whereby we provide as much service at one or two sites along No. 3 highway to the best of our ability or are there other things we could look at such as consolidating where those services are delivered on the weekend.”
In February, the situation will only worsen as a doctor from Killarney is set to leave.
Moving services to one or two hospitals would provide a measure of reliability.
“We are going to see if there is another option to provide more predictable, consistent service, so the public aren’t having to phone everyday and try to figure out which site is on call,” Gilson said. “It’s not ideal and we’ll continue to work to ensure we get back to the level of service those communities were used to, but it’s going to take some time.”
The Highway 3 conundrum is also a microcosm of the health authority.
Other areas, such as Minnedosa and Swan River, are battling physician shortages.
Gilson said PMH hasn’t had a lot of success this year recruiting Manitoba doctors, but expects to have four international doctors by March.
However, with more than a dozen communities searching for doctors —and some searching for more than one — it’s going to be an uphill battle.
“I’ll be honest we’re going to have to make some tough decisions around where we are going to place those limited resources,” Gilson said.