Emergency room closures in rural Manitoba a growing concern after patient dies being turned away

ER closures in Manitoba’s rural communities are causing concern for municipal leaders, saying while they feel health authorities are doing their best, the province needs to do more. Morgan Modjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

Some Manitobans in rural communities are facing a troubling new reality when it comes to accessing health care: a closed emergency room.

And it’s becoming far too common, laments the reeve of a municipality in southwestern Manitoba.

Emergency departments in small communities can face closures as health care moves to large urban centres, or because of staffing shortages.

“There’s nine interruptions of the emergency department in April, some of them run for a day, some of them run for two days, three days. We’re concerned. The big question is, where does it all end up?” said Will Eert, the reeve of Norfolk Treherne.

“What they’re recommendation is for emergency situations is to call 911 and apart from that, phone to determine which health centre is open and then they give the phone number and I think that’s it.”


Eert says right now, if people try to go to the hospital in the community and find it’s closed, they’ll be driving roughly 20 minutes to Notre Dame hospital. But if that’s also closed, they could be facing a more than hour drive to Portage la Prairie.

“For me personally, it makes me feel upset and angry, to be frank,” said Eert. “I appreciate the situation, I appreciate that Prairie Mountain Health and the province are doing what they can with limited resources to share the load and do that. Not knowing the environment they work in… but I say it makes me feel upset and angry.”

Rural closures in Manitoba have already resulted in at least one death. The most recent Critical Incident Report from the province shows a patient died en route after the emergency department they presented at was closed.

“A person being escorted arrived to a facility on curtailment of services (Emergency Department closed). The individual was brought to the next closest healthcare facility; however, the person did not survive,” read the entry in the incident report.

The report does not specify which hospital emergency rooms were involved.

CityNews reached out to the Prairie Mountain Health for comment on the concerns brought forward by Reeve Errt, but a reply was not immediately received.

Earlier this week, Shared Health said work is being done to address shortages in Manitoba, specifically in nursing, through new education spots, mentorship programs and financial incentives.

“We know there is more work to do to recruit new nurses into the system and to retain those nurses whose dedication and skills are so valued but who have been heavily relied upon to support the increased demands of patients, residents and clients during successive waves of COVID-19,” read in part the Shared Health statement.

Eert says he wants to continue collaborating with officials with the health region and says rural communities need to be heard and consulted when closures are planned.

He says right now at the local level, his community would like to see further bonus incentives for nurses and staff in rural communities, and the issue needs to be addressed across the province.

“These emergency department shutdowns have occurred and it’s been building up, so we’ve just started to say, ‘we need to see what we can do, as a municipality, and as a municipal government to support Prairie Mountain Health,” he said.

“We would want to work collaboratively with Prairie Mountain Health to help them improve the service. I think Prairie Mountain Health is doing everything they can.”

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