After her town’s ER closed on weekends, doctor extends clinic hours to keep people safe

A doctor in Grandview, Man., has extended hours in her own clinic to help fill the gap left by the closure of the town’s ER on weekends.

Grandview is one of four emergency rooms in the Prairie Mountain Health region that has either been closed or had reduced hours for most of the summer due to staffing challenges. The town’s nearest 24/7 emergency department to is in Dauphin, a 30-minute drive. 

Over the long weekend,  a third of emergency rooms were closed in the region, according to the health authority’s website. 

To make up for the lack of emergency room services in Grandview on weekends, Dr. Jacobi Elliott has extended hours at her medical clinic, which is located within the town’s hospital, since the beginning of July. 

“It’s for stability,” she said.”I want them still to have a place to go to. I want patients to feel safe.” 

With a small staff that has only two full-time physicians (including Elliott), a nurse practitioner, licensed practical nurse and a few administrative staff, the clinic has had to rely on volunteers to help in the reception area in order to make it work, Elliott says. 

For now, Elliott says, they’re taking it week by week, but she worries that one day someone will come in who needs help that they can’t provide, because they’re not set up to handle emergencies. 

“We’ve had some close calls that way,” she said, “so that is a real worry for us. You know, if you have somebody really sick there, what do we do?” 

She also worries about the people who need help overnight. 

“I can provide clinic service, you know, eight-to-four, but there’s still those gaps in the evenings and people don’t get sick nine-to-five — doesn’t work like that.”

A spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health said the region goes through periods of shortages in qualified health-care personnel who are required to keep an emergency department safely functioning.

Currently, there is a shortage of nursing and lab/diagnostic staff at the Grandview Health Centre, the spokesperson said, adding that the health authority is trying to resume usual services as soon as possible. 

Community frustrated

The rural community has fought against health-care cuts since 2017, when the province consolidated ambulance stations.

Sue Stirling, who’s part of the Grandview Healthcare Solutions group, says she and other members of the community have been working on ways to keep their ER open, but feel bureaucracy is getting in the way. 

“The community is expressing a lot of frustration because we’re all so well connected,” she said. 

“We know we have the staff 90 per cent of the time. They don’t understand why Prairie Mountain Health have to make the decisions, or even why Shared Health have to say that somebody can’t work who is volunteering to work.”

Stirling thinks the summer closure shows rural communities are not a priority.

“There’s a complete distancing from the reality on the ground with the bureaucracy in Winnipeg,” she said.

Health-care staff shortages and emergency room closures are plaguing communities across Canada. 

On Monday, a Prince Edward Island emergency department officially shut down until mid-September.

According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, staff shortages forced about 25 hospitals in that province to scale back sections of their facilities on the long weekend.

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