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This article was published 24/3/2018 (1275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With nurses in Brandon already feeling the pinch of mandatory overtime, the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union says closing rural health-care centres could make emergency rooms even more crowded.
Speaking by phone, Sandi Mowat said while the province is in a challenging time, ERs in Manitoba need to be better staffed, particularly if the province closes facilities in rural areas.
"But the worry is if there (are) closures and consolidation, then are they going to have the resources in place in the other facilities," to deal with the increase, Mowat said.
"And I think we can be proactive as opposed to reacting."
Earlier this week, Mowat told the Winnipeg Free Press that mandatory overtime at St. Boniface Hospital had reached a "crisis level," with as many incidents so far this year — 328 — as all of 2017. Some were forced to work shifts as long as 16 hours straight.
All of the incidents were self-reported and most — 186 — were done by nurses working in labour, delivery, recovery and the postpartum unit.
Although data on mandatory overtime isn’t available here in Brandon, Mowat said anecdotally that she has heard of nurses at the Brandon Regional Health Centre who were working mandatory overtime shifts.
"They get tired and they’re certainly more prone to end up with burnout," Mowat said.
When this happens, nurses are more likely to get sick, meaning someone will have to cover their shift, she said, creating a vicious cycle.
The provincial government is set to form a new organization called Shared Health by April 1, which will help co-ordinate health-care delivery and planning across Manitoba.
Last year, nine municipalities formed a group called the Western Manitoba Health Care Task Force and crafted a series of recommendations around health care for Shared Health, one of which was to shut down emergency departments in Killarney, Boissevain, Melita and Deloraine, and convert them initially into urgent care centres — which would provide immediate, but not emergency, care.
In December, Premier Brian Pallister confirmed that some hospitals in the province would either close or be converted for other purposes, such as personal care homes.
But the problem with Shared Health, Mowat said, is it’s still a "mystery" to her.
"Our biggest concern is that it’s still an unknown entity, and the hope we have is that there will be communication and we will actually know what the impact will be before they do it."
In a statement, a spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health said it would be premature to speculate on the consolidation of health-care services.
"Shared Health is taking the lead on developing a coordinated clinical and services plan to address the health care needs of rural Manitobans. This planning will involve clinical leaders from across Manitoba, representing a variety of health care professions, informed by the consultations that have already been done across Manitoba by Dr. Peachey, the Wait Times Task Force and others," the statement read.
"This plan will ensure people in rural and northern areas of the province have access to consistent, reliable care."
Mowat said the plan to involve clinicians and look at programs across Manitoba as a whole was positive, considering it wasn’t done in the past.
"You have to also look at what’s best for the whole province," she said.
But when it comes to overcrowding at the BRHC, Mowat said the hospital needs both the staff and the proper infrastructure in place so it can take on more patients.
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