Deloraine ED staying open, Melita not so lucky

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News that the emergency department in Deloraine-Winchester isn’t temporarily closing after all is a relief, but the situation is far from ideal, says the reeve for the municipality.

Gord Weidenhamer said there was a meeting on Tuesday with municipal and hospital administration as well as Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) to discuss emergency department (ED) staffing levels and were told they would not be closing for the time being.

However, there could be staff interruptions due to redeployments, which he said he understood had to happen because of staffing shortages elsewhere.

File While the Deloraine emergency department will remain open for the time being, Melita's ED will close for at least two months.

“They are doing the best they can,” he said. “Although the one thing I must say is, I feel for our staff at our local hospitals because their workload is heavy. They have to pick up the short end of it.”

Acute care will be the most impacted, he said, because that is where the staffing shortages are the highest.

This isn’t the first time the municipality has had to deal with interruptions or closures, and they share an ED with Boissevain.

He added these scheduling changes are not rectifying the big-picture problem, which is a lack of physicians, nurses and medical staff.

“Our government has to change its policy a little bit,” Weidenhamer said. “Other provinces have incentives to draw the educated nurses away. We are lacking and there needs to be an improvement there. We should be doing our best to retain our nurses and staff in our province.”

The municipality is willing to work with the province on retention, he said, but there must be more work done at the upper levels to come up with a real solution soon.

Medical staffing shortages are a nationwide problem, he said. For Manitoba, though, he would like to see changes to how nurses, physicians and technicians are trained and deployed, with an emphasis on rural residents being recruited to fill in the gaps.

Elsewhere, the town of Melita’s ED will be closed for at least two months due to staff redeployment.

As a result, Mayor Bill Holden said he and several other people are forming a committee to address this closure and would be releasing a statement later.

Temporary emergency department closures have been ongoing. In previous comments about the Souris ED temporarily closing this week, Souris-based physician Dr. David Cram said he has never seen anything like this in his 36-year-long career.

“I’ve been at this a long, long time, and I’ve never been as concerned as I am now about the stability of our hospitals and our emergency rooms to provide the care to our patients,” said the Manitoba representative on the Canadian Medical Association’s board of directors.

Cram said PMH has been working closely with hospital staff to co-ordinate temporary closures and medical staff relocations to ease the blow to medical services.

These closures are going to go on for a while longer, he said, but warned the situation is not sustainable.

Staff shortages have become worse during the pandemic and EDs are under constant threat due to any disruption to staffing.

“We’re just a nursing shift or a doctor shift away for one or two hospitals [EDs] to close, and it certainly has a domino effect,” Cram said.

This week Doctors Manitoba launched ruralcare.ca to help Manitobans stay informed about what to do if their local hospital is closed in an emergency. It will also list anticipated ED closures by region.

The organization plans to update the website weekly throughout the summer. It provided statistics that show 40 per cent of rural ERs are expected to stay open 24-7, but 34 per cent will only be able to operate on reduced hours or temporary closures, while 26 per cent have been closed for more than a year and won’t reopen this summer.

A spokesperson for PMH stated in an email the regional health authority has been finalizing a summer operations plan that will help establish some consistency in ED services available in the region throughout the summer months.

Staffing challenges — resulting from a combination of vacancies, staff leaves and vacations — have been discussed with physician leadership and staff at affected sites, as well as with key community stakeholders.

Those stakeholder meetings were wrapped up Tuesday, the spokesperson stated. Additional details on the summer operations plan will be provided today.

» kmckinley@brandonsun.com, with files from The Brandon Sun

» Twitter: @karenleighmcki1

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