Dozens of people, including hospital staff, union representatives and community members, gathered outside Concordia Hospital on Tuesday to protest the province's plan to close its emergency department.
Ric McAlpine, president of CUPE 1973, works at Concordia Hospital and organized the rally.
"I think it's a catastrophic decision," McAlpine said. "Closing our facility means that a huge area of Winnipeg is going to have absolutely no emergent or urgent [care] for thousands and thousands of people."
As part of an effort to streamline emergency services, three of Winnipeg's ERs will be closing, including Concordia, the provincial government announced on Friday. The emergency departments at Seven Oaks and Victoria General Hospital will close and be converted to urgent care centres, a place to treat immediate but non-life-threatening emergencies.
The province based the decision on recommendations in a report commissioned by the previous NDP government to look at ways to make health care more efficient.
Jenna Gomulinski attended the rally with her two young children. The former Concordia employee, who lives in Lockport, said she fears the commute to another hospital when this one closes.
"I feel like it would be a burden on northeast Winnipeg and surrounding areas," she said. "When your kid has a fever in the middle of the night or when someone's fallen and needs stitches, it still feels like an emergency to a parent, and these services are needed and can't wait till Monday morning."
Judy Holstrom calls the closure a tragedy. Closing the ER without offering an alternative such as an urgent care centre is concerning, said Holstrom, who lives in the area and worked in the hospital for 20 years.
"Especially for people out in Transcona, the distance is going to be unbelievable. Not all of us [have] the ability to get an ambulance," she said. "I hope they change their mind."
ER doctor fears job losses
Dr. Terence Bergmann, an emergency physician at Concordia, is not convinced the province's plan is sound. He said hospital staff have received limited information how remaining emergency rooms will accommodate the influx of patients when Concorida closes.
"We don't have the ability to take all of the patients we're seeing and add them to the other hospitals" he said. "Unless they show some way they're going to be able to fit people in, and ideally faster, this is a plan that doesn't have a solid footing."
Job security is another issue. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) stated there will be jobs for those who want one, but Bergmann isn't convinced his younger staff are protected. Since the announcement, eight nurses have asked him for references to get jobs elsewhere.
"The government can say this is going to be a nice slow closure. I do not think it will be," he said. "If people abandon ship we're not going to have any staff working to carry this through."
The Concordia emergency department saw 29,608 patients last year, according to the WRHA.
McAlpine said even though the government has made its decision there is still time to reverse its course.
"We have time now to get the community to push back and say we want a plan, and we want that plan to include emergency care for Concordia."