Leaf Rapids emergency room shuts doors for fourth time

·2 min read

A northern Manitoba emergency department is now being forced to shut its doors for the fourth time in just more than two years because once again there is not enough staff to run the facility.

On Tuesday evening, the Northern Health Region said in a social media post that the Leaf Rapid Health Centre's emergency department would be closing at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and is expected to remain closed until 1 p.m. next Tuesday.

Northern Health said the closure was due to “ongoing persistent staffing issues.”

And those staffing issues are nothing new to the residents of Leaf Rapids, a remote northern Manitoba town of about 550 residents that sits more than 950 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

This now marks the fourth time the ER has been closed since the pandemic began because of staffing issues, with the facility last closing its doors because of a lack of staff on Dec. 29 of last year, and staying closed until Jan. 24.

After that closure back in December, Leaf Rapids resident Liz Charrier wrote and shared a letter in which she said Leaf Rapids citizens were “begging” for adequate emergency services and health care.

“As concerned citizens of Leaf Rapids we’re asking, we’re begging that our health and well-being finally be taken seriously,” Charrier wrote in her open letter.

“This letter is our community’s long overdue cry for help in addressing these long-term issues of inaccessible health care in our community, as well as in other northern communities.”

Charrier said in her letter that the uncertainty of what health care services are going to be available from one day to the next is a source of great stress and frustration for many in Leaf Rapids, and has left many hoping that they aren’t forced to deal with a medical emergency.

“Just take a minute to imagine that you or someone you love was in dire need of immediate medical attention,” she wrote. “Now imagine travelling one hour to see the nearest doctor, by this point you could be dead. What if you lost someone you love prematurely because you could not access emergency services or even basic health care?

“This is the everyday fear and reality for the community members in Leaf Rapids.”

Northern Health is now asking anyone in the Leaf Rapids area experiencing a medical emergency to call 911, as EMS services will continue to be available in the community.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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