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MLA Report: Calls for health care help answered with cuts

"Northerners' calls for better healthcare services continue to fall on deaf ears."
tom
Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey.

Northerners' calls for better healthcare services continue to fall on deaf ears.

A year ago, the Northern Health Region (NHR) said that staffing for Leaf Rapids was “very fragile”. Around the same time, I raised my concern that over half the nursing positions in Leaf Rapids were vacant. Despite these clear warning signs, the province failed to act and the Leaf Rapids ER will be closed until at least August 31, with people having to travel over 100 kilometres away to Lynn Lake instead.

However, things are looking no better in Lynn Lake. The NHR recently ordered that all Lynn Lake hospital in-patients, including long-term care residents, be transferred eight hours away to Flin Flon, due to a claimed lack of nurses on site. Family members were not notified in advance and it’s not clear how long this transfer will last.

This is simply unacceptable.

This transfer negatively impacts patient health and puts undue stress on residents and their loved ones. To make matters worse, the province has not announced a timeline to reinstate in-patient services, which makes me worry that the hospital will be shut down entirely.

Forcing people to travel further away from their home communities for health care services goes directly against the province’s 2019 promise to “provide better health care closer to home”.

I recently raised these concerns with the CEO of the NHR, Helga Bryant, and reiterated the importance of expanding health care services. As well, I also asked that the NHR return patients to Lynn Lake and apologize to the families affected. In conversation with Bryant, I asked if any costs would be covered for families that are being forced to travel and spend nights in a hotel in order to see their loved ones. You might recall this was done when people were transferred from Winnipeg to rural or northern hospitals. She stated there was no plan like this in place at this time.

I have yet to hear a response from Minister of Health Audrey Gordon to the correspondence I sent August 2 or to phone calls.

Please keep an eye out for updates on wildfires and prepare in case of an emergency. Despite being told by the Minister that I would be notified of wildfires in the Flin Flon constituency, I am still being kept in the dark. Instead, I am finding out about wildfires and evacuations through the news and Facebook posts, which is frustrating.

I am also concerned about an inability to quickly respond to forest fires in the north, due to the PCs' cuts. We used to have forest fire attack crews stationed in most communities, but now there are only a few left. The remaining crews now have to travel further distances to reach fires, which gives the fires time to grow.

This is yet another example of how the PCs' cuts are impacting safety in the north.

You can reach me by email at tom.lindsey@yourmanitoba.ca or by phone at 204-687-3246.