The emergency department in a western Manitoba hospital has been temporarily shuttered on weekdays after losing one doctor and a lab technician.
Prairie Mountain Health suspended ER services in the community of Roblin, Man., about 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
It’s creating further stress for some area residents who were already concerned about access to emergency care.
“When I have a heart episode, it’s not going to stop and ask what time so it’s not a very good feeling,” said area resident Karen Miller, who retired with her husband Raymond just south of Roblin a little over a year ago.
It’s the second time in the past 14 months emergency room hours at the Roblin District Health Centre have been reduced until further notice. ER services were suspended between September and December of last year after lab technicians were reassigned from Roblin to nearby Russell.
While the community’s ER is now closed during weekdays due to what Prairie Mountain Health calls “unexpected staffing resource issues,” it remains open over the weekend.
“This is just very unfortunate that this has happened,” said Brian Schoonbaert, CEO of Prairie Mountain Health. “This is not the intent. This is not what we want to see in the future.”
Schoonbaert urges residents to call 911 in an emergency.
He said ERs in the surrounding communities of Grandview, Man. and Russell, Man. which are each about a 30-minute drive away, remain open and that health officials are working to restore ER services in Roblin as soon as possible.
“Roblin must remain for us a facility that provides ER services because of the area it’s in and the area it covers,” said Schoonbaert.
Frustrated with the suspension of emergency care over the years, some local residents have recently formed the Roblin Doctor Recruitment and Retention group. Their goal is to find four physicians who want to work and live in the area long term in an effort to offer a better work/life balance to doctors and to help stabilize the ER.
“I know we’re not the only town experiencing this either,” said Whitney Mitchell, a pharmacist and owner of Mitchell’s Drug Store. “It’s hard to find any health care professional to move to small towns.”
Mitchell is one of five members of the group. She said the town is looking to attract physicians by showing off the area’s natural beauty and proximity to several nearby lakes.
“We’d sure love to find some doctors that want to make our community, our home and stay here. Probably the biggest complaint I hear from customers is ‘I just get to know my doctor and they leave.’”
Prior to this latest service disruption, the Miller’s tried going to the Roblin ER on the night of Sep. 21 when Karen was having a cardiac emergency.
Raymond drove his wife from their home along Lake of the Prairies about 20 minutes south of the community not knowing the ER had already closed for the night. When they got to the ER they were told through an intercom system while standing outside the hospital they would have to drive to Russell or Grandview.
“At that point I thought I was going to die on that doorstep,” Karen said.
Raymond then drove Karen across the border into Saskatchewan and called 911. An ambulance met them on the side of the Highway 10 where paramedics treated Karen in the ambulance on the side of the road and took her to hospital in Yorkton, Sask. for further care.
Schoonbaert said while the ER was closed for the day, the couple should’ve been given more help in Roblin. He also said the health region is working to better communicate to residents the ER’s regular hours of operation.
The Millers just hope something similar doesn’t happen again.
“It was a good outcome, but it could’ve been far, far worse,” Raymond said.
Prairie Mountain Health said it’s working on finding a physician to help temporarily restore ER services in the community until a more permanent solution can be found.
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