Nurses are worried chronically ill patients being cared for by the Hospital Home Team are being left in the lurch.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Sandi Mowat says she found out through media reports this morning that the program is being cut with no notice.
"I am not very happy about it. The members I represent feel strongly about this program. They are concerned and we are concerned we weren't given proper notification," said Mowat.
About 10 nurses who worked in the program delivered care to around 550 chronically ill Winnipeggers in their homes.
"This, in my opinion, would be a cut to front-line staff. It's a valuable service that has been successful by improving the quality of life for patients and preventing admission to hospital," she said.
Funding not renewed
The Hospital Home Team started as a pilot project in 2012. The following year the province gave the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority $1.7 million annually to support the program. That funding ends March 31, 2017.
The WHRA said the funding is simply not being renewed.
In a written statement, vice-president Real Cloutier reassured staff that there would be "no interruption to health services for clients."
"They will continue to receive health services that will be co-ordinated through home care offices," Cloutier wrote.
The statement said the program "did not yield the results we'd hoped for."
Mowat said she believes the program was successful. "It improved the quality of the patient's life, which is a huge issue. But it also prevented them from making repeated visits to emergency because they had access to a doctor, a nurse practitioner and a primary care nurse in their home setting."
But Cloutier said those outcomes were not enough to justify the cost.
The province recently issued a directive to the WRHA to find $83 million in savings this year.
Mowat wonders if axing the Hospital Home Team is part of the WRHA's attempt to meet the province's directive.
She says nurses were anxious about losing their jobs — so all but two of the 10 have found other work.
The WRHA admits the uncertainty has created worry.
"I completely understand that people need to make choices and respect individual decisions that are being made. Currently we are not backfilling positions that are vacant," the statement said.
The next steps for the remaining staff will be determined in the 2017-18 budget, Cloutier said.