‘Northern Manitoba deserves better,’ the chief says as two hospitals temporarily close

Two hospitals in northern Manitoba are closing for several days in the face of ongoing, persistent staffing problems, but people living in the area point to the long-standing inequalities in health care.

On Monday, the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) announced that they will close the Leaf Rapids Health Center until January 10, and all clinical treatment will go through Lynn Lake or Thompson.

This is the second time the hospital is closing during the pandemic due to staffing issues.

On Tuesday, the authority announced that Gillam Hospital will be closed until January 5, although the primary clinic will be open Thursday and Friday. All other treatment will be directed to Thompson.

The announcement is unacceptable to Chief Morris Beardy, who heads Fox Lake Cree Nation near Gillam.

“Gillam is a three-hour drive away from the nearest nearest hospital in Thompson. The airport does not have the facilities to stage an air ambulance, and members of the local community are worried about having to wait for an air ambulance to fly in from Thompson if anyone needs it. life-saving care, “he said in a statement Wednesday.

“Immediate action is needed to address this, and a long-term solution to this crisis.”

Leaf Rapids Health Center is pictured in a 2020 file image. It closes its doors until January 10 due to staff shortages. (Posted by Dennis Anderson)

The news is also disappointing for Dennis Anderson, 59, who lives in Leaf Rapids, about 750 miles north of Winnipeg.

His mother, Minnie, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and survives breast cancer. She often needs an oxygen machine or a blood pressure check at the local clinic.

Dennis, a member of the nearby Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, says she is currently in the capital for appointments and believes she should stay seated until the hospital reopens.

Dennis Anderson (left) is considering getting his mother Minnie Anderson to stay in Winnipeg until the hospital reopens in Leaf Rapids. (Posted by Dennis Anderson)

“If something happens like she’s 82 years old. She has mobility issues and more health issues. And I don’t think it would be safe for her to be in the community at this point with health care,” he said.

Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the closures are due in part to the continuing strain of the pandemic and the highly transferable variant, the Omicron.

“We have increasing demands on the healthcare system for various reasons, but most notably because of Omicron. And so what we do know is just as we are seeing an increase in the number of cases, yes, some of the increased cases include healthcare. the staff extra much, “he said.

“It’s a challenge. That’s why we’re taking more action. That’s why we are asking Manitobans to do what they can to reduce their contacts. That is why we are begging Manitobans to be vaccinated as soon as possible. they will be eligible for another dose. “

Before Omicron was discovered in the province, there was a shortage of nurses in northern Manitoba.

There were 109 vacancies for nurses in Sundhedsregion Nord per. November 1 according to the National Board of Health – a vacancy of 25.2 percent. Some hospitals have even more staggering unemployment, like Gillam at 54 percent and Lynn Lake, which is nearly 80 percent, the health region says.

In the south, the rate is lower.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority reported a 17.3 percent vacancy rate for nurses in October, while the rate in the Southern Health Region was 21.2 percent at the end of September, according to documents obtained by the Opposition NDP.

But Anderson says inadequate health care has existed in the North long before the pandemic.

“Why does it always have to be someone at the local level who touches the pot, just to get some attention on these ongoing issues? And they continue, it’s not just since COVID. This has been going on for many years.”

Beardy reiterates his concerns.

“We have raised our concerns with the NRHA and the Minister of Health about this impending crisis for several months. We have written several letters and met with the Minister in October,” he said.

“Northern Manitoba deserves better. The Manitoba government has known about this and did nothing to prepare, that’s what’s most worrying.”

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