Towns fear loss of health services
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Leaders in Glenboro are fretting over the possibility of a hospital closure as they await official word from government officials — and it’s a similar story in nearby Carberry.
One of Glenboro Health Centre’s two doctors departs at the end of March, leaving the community with one physician and a nurse practitioner.
Word of the closure wasn’t something the town learned from officials, but from a group of nurses after a meeting with Prairie Mountain Health, according to Glenboro deputy mayor Ed Bedford.
“They had a meeting with Prairie Mountain Health last week and were told that as of April 9, our hospital is going to be shut down,” Bedford said. “My emails to Brian Schoonbaert, PMH’s chief executive officer, haven’t been answered.”
Prairie Mountain Health didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Mayor Charles Radford said he’s worried about the harmful ripple effect a hospital closure would have on Glenboro.
“You close a hospital in a small town, you’re going to lose the town,” Radford said.
“People will just get up and move, because we probably have more seniors here than young people. And we are a hub. PMH is not understanding that this is a functioning hospital.”
Similar sentiments are felt half an hour away in Carberry, where Mayor Ray Muirhead fears the loss of his town’s emergency department at the Carberry Plains Health Centre in September, when its only physician’s four-year contract expires.
Both communities have tried to collaborate in the past, to “cover each other off.”
When hours of operation were reduced at their emergency departments, they did their best to make sure there were consecutive days with coverage and even came up with a schedule, said Muirhead.
The emergency department in Carberry is only open Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and in Glenboro the hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
“And it was going back and forth, so when Carberry wasn’t available on the weekend, then it would be Glenboro,” said Muirhead. But then several weeks ago, PMH announced that they were shutting emergency down in Glenboro, and we wondered — is Carberry next?”
Once Carberry loses its physician, it will only have a nurse practitioner who can assess, diagnose, order certain tests, prescribe medications, and perform certain procedures.
Muirhead said he’s worried that without proper staffing levels at Carberry’s hospital, it will reflect on the type of care people can access.
“So, in order to provide emergency care, you have to have at least a doctor and a nurse available,” Muirhead said. “But if we didn’t have those, we could only provide urgent care, and below that is transitional, which means a short-term care facility.”
Both communities have local health committees that raise money to buy equipment. In Carberry, $90,000 was raised to install a bathtub and shower room in the hospital. In Glenboro, the committee has collected almost $3,000 to recruit a new doctor.
Something else both communities say they have in common, is the will to keep going. Muirhead said Carberry’s health action committee recently distributed 1,200 recruitment pamphlets for medical personnel across the province.
Meanwhile, Glenboro’s health action committee will continue its fundraising efforts while Bedford continues to press the regional health authority.
The province didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
According to Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, communities need to demand more from the government, which he believes has demonstrated a lack of communication.
“And now that there’s the possibility of Glenboro’s hospital closing, the lack of communication is highlighted between the government and folks who live in that community,” said Kinew. “And unfortunately, that’s been a common experience for many communities, but is no excuse for inaction when it comes to fixing the health-care staffing crisis.”