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This article was published 15/7/2017 (1054 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Following public backlash against the provincial government’s plan to close 23 rural emergency medical service stations, Premier Brian Pallister promised accountability and communication to concerned municipalities.
"(Our MLAs) will be very interested in talking to their community partners, whether it’s at the municipal level, (or) it’s in the community itself," Pallister said on Friday while in Brandon for the grand opening of the city’s redeveloped airport.
"We’re accountable people. We come from here, our families need the health-care system to work just as much as anybody else, and we have the responsibility to lead it in a positive direction — and that’s what we’re going to do."
As reported earlier this month in The Brandon Sun, the Progressive Conservative government plans to close a long list of low-volume rural EMS stations as part of its new health-care approach. Five new strategically placed stations will replace the closed sites, as the province moves to a goal of 24-7 paramedic coverage.
Westman has several stations set to close, including Birtle, Rossburn, Wawanesa, Elkhorn and Boissevain, to name a few. New sites will be located in Alonsa, Cowan, Miniota, Eriksdale and Manigotagan, while stations in Virden and Glenboro will be enhanced.
The Municipality of Boissevain-Morton expressed frustration that there was no consultation with the communities prior to the major announcement. Questions mounted about whether this is only the first step toward losing even more services.
"Our community has been thriving, we’ve been growing, and … if we lose health care, how are we going to keep people, or recruit new people to our community?" Leo Poulin, administrator with the Municipality of Boissevain-Morton, told the Sun last week.
The changes stem from recommendations contained in the 2013 Provincial EMS Review by Reg Toews, which was commissioned by the previous NDP government.
"I know the change is hard for communities, I come from a small community," Pallister said. "But we can’t run everything in every town in the province of Manitoba. It isn’t going to work well to get services on time to people, of sufficient quality."
Pallister went on to say the major overhaul is necessary to deal with a growing, evolving province.
"Our economy is starting to grow, and we don’t just need more facilities, we need more services," he said. "A building doesn’t save people’s lives, what does is a paramedic there quickly to help."
The ultimate goal is to provide better, faster access to good quality services, he added.
Spruce Woods Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Cullen, minister of growth, enterprise and trade, said he will "absolutely" meet with communities in his constituency, and has started the dialogue.
"We will have those discussions and certainly talk about some of the concerns they have," he said. "I think the public should recognize these changes are not going to happen overnight."
Cullen said he is supportive of the EMS overhaul, as it will allow the province to better manage the system and provide better care.
"Clearly it’s going to impact some local communities that have current on-call ambulance service," he said. "Clearly this is a process and it’s going to unfold over the course of time. Closures are not imminent."
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