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This article was published 5/8/2017 (805 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Several doctors in Grandview are calling on citizens to contact their elected officials and resist the province’s planned overhaul of rural emergency medical services.
Dr. Jim Rae, along with his colleagues Dr. Jacobi Elliott and Dr. Wouna Chaloner, are hosting a community meeting on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Grandview Kinsmen Community Centre, followed by a meeting on the Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation on Aug. 16 at 1 p.m.
"I’m just trying to get people to realize that this plan has some serious holes in it," Rae said. "I think it is well-intentioned and I think the basic premise is sensible, but the local execution seems to be flawed. I want people to raise a stink with their elected officials, and advocate for a local solution to these provincial problems of providing EMS service for a reasonable cost."
The backlash stems from an announcement made by the Progressive Conservative government in June, outlining major changes planned as part of its new health-care approach.
Twenty-three "low volume" rural EMS stations are on the list to be closed, including several in Westman: Baldur, Birtle, Boissevain, Cartwright, Elkhorn, Ethelbert, Grandview, Hamiota, Hartney, McCreary, Oak Lake, Reston, Rossburn, Treherne and Wawanesa.
Five new strategically placed stations will replace the closed sites as the province moves to a goal of 24-7 paramedic coverage. New sites will be located in Alonsa, Cowan, Miniota, Eriksdale and Manigotagan, while stations in Virden and Glenboro will be enhanced.
"I think people are upset and fairly confused, and they’re worried that their health needs are not being appropriately looked after with this plan," Rae said.
Rae pointed out that Grandview already has a 24-7 emergency department, and between the provincial and municipal governments, a real effort has been made to recruit doctors — including him.
"There are places where (emergency departments) are amalgamating and there’s a question of whether the demand is there or whether the doctors can be there — that’s just not what’s going on here in Grandview," he said.
Physicians in the area are concerned that the closure of an EMS station is just the beginning, and worry what it will mean for the future of their hospital.
"I feel like this is an initial action by the government to test the waters a little bit, under the guise of reforms," he said. "I think that if this small town is really going to advocate to maintain the service that’s really central to the community … it makes sense to respond vigorously to small changes that threaten the overall feasibility of the hospital."
Grandview municipality councillor Jim Winfield expresses similar concerns in a letter to the editor, appearing in today’s Brandon Sun.
While Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski could not be reached, the PC MLA for nearby Riding Mountain, Greg Nesbitt, was available for an interview. An interview request for Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen was not granted.
Nesbitt said he is "100 per cent" behind the province’s EMS overhaul, and expects people to get on board once they fully understand the plan.
"I think once people get passed being hung up on bricks and mortar, and just look at things rationally … I think they can come to their own conclusion on it," he said.
The changes stem from recommendations contained in the 2013 Provincial EMS Review by Reg Toews, which was commissioned by the previous NDP government. The province has said the ultimate goal is to provide better, faster access to good quality service.
"When you call 911, you want to make sure that the paramedics — and I’m talking trained paramedics — are on your doorstep in under 30 minutes, and that’s the whole focus of this plan," Nesbitt said. "Quite honestly, once you get across to people that it’s not really your concern where the ambulance comes from, it’s how quick it gets to your home."
Nesbitt also stressed that the changes are not going to happen overnight, in fact it will be rolled out over several years as funds become available. A provincial spokesperson noted that there are no plans to close Grandview Hospital.
A common complaint from municipalities across Westman is that the province did not consult with communities before making the announcement.
Oakland-Wawanesa Mayor DaveKreklewich said the lack of information has been unsettling for the community, especially when they already have a good ambulance service in the area.
"We don’t understand why that has to be interrupted," Kreklewich said, adding that a serious accident outside Wawanesa on Thursday was met with quick EMS response.
"I met with all our ambulance people … and they’re all disappointed," he said. "They’re very proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish over the years, and all of a sudden somebody comes out on a Thursday morning and says ‘We’re gonna do it all different.’"
Kreklewich is relieved that the changes aren’t happening right away.
"It’s going to take more time, but now they need to talk to us more."
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