ER closures, other changes to health care still need to be 'priced out,' premier says

ER closures, other changes to health care still need to be 'priced out,' premier says

Three days after the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced sweeping reforms to health care in the city, Premier Brian Pallister says he doesn't know how much the changes will cost or save.

"I don't think that's well-defined at this point, because I think there, as I said, there are many moving parts to this," Pallister told reporters on Monday. "There's a lot of changes happening simultaneously."

The plan, announced by the health authority and Goertzen on Friday, includes the closure of three of Winnipeg's six emergency departments and its existing urgent care centre; two of the emergency departments will be converted to new urgent care facilities.

Winnipeg health authority officials said the changes will reduce wait times and concentrate resources in the health-care system.

Since the announcement, the province has been asked a handful of times how much the plan will cost, but hasn't provided a number.

On Monday, Pallister said implementing the plan will involve "significant capital investments," including infrastructure investments and modifications to hospitals, but "a lot of that has to be priced out."

"I think what's revealed by that is that our first concern is for service improvements, and that the capital aspects will be dealt with in due course," Pallister said.

"But we're not doing this as a money-saving exercise. This is done as a service-improvements exercise."

Transfers possible: premier

Asked if the reform might mean going back on campaign promises not to cut front-line workers, Pallister said he didn't expect that to happen.

"The WRHA leadership that's advancing this plan has assured me and my minister that if people want to stay working, there'll be an opportunity for them to work, and that's good enough for me," Pallister said.

But he didn't rule out the possibility some workers might be transferred.

"There's a big difference between losing your job and being reassigned," he said.