St. Boniface Hospital ER to be expanded, modernized with $141M in work

The province is going ahead with a long-awaited, multi-million dollar expansion of the emergency department at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

Premier Heather Stefanson and health minister Audrey Gordon announced the project — which was first promised by former premier Brian Pallister in the 2019 provincial election — at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Read more: WRHA CEO says Winnipeg’s emergency department wait times are “concerning”

The cost of the project has ballooned nearly 60 per cent since it was first promised, now coming in at $141 million.

It’s also work the Progressive Conservative government’s own 2017  Wait Time Reduction Task Force report recommended be done before they closed three of Winnipeg’s six emergency rooms, to make sure wait times wouldn’t increase under the closures.

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Click to play video: 'Wait times force 1 in 4 patients to leave Winnipeg’s largest ER without seeing doctor: Shared Health' Wait times force 1 in 4 patients to leave Winnipeg’s largest ER without seeing doctor: Shared Health

Wait times force 1 in 4 patients to leave Winnipeg’s largest ER without seeing doctor: Shared Health – Sep 24, 2021

Stefanson wouldn’t say why their government didn’t follow the recommendation or why its taken so long for the project to get started.

“I think the important thing is, is that it is moving forward,” she said Tuesday.

The project will see 18,600 square feet of existing space renovated at the ER and 86,200 square feet in new construction added.

Click to play video: 'Province Announces St. Boniface Hospital Expansion and Modernization Project' Province Announces St. Boniface Hospital Expansion and Modernization Project

Province Announces St. Boniface Hospital Expansion and Modernization Project

The province says the work will see the space modernized including an expansion to the hospital’s central resuscitation area and the addition of a dedicated diagnostic imaging suite with a new CT scanner and X-ray machines.

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There will also be a dedicated mental health treatment area added and a new ambulance entrance with a parking bay for 10 ambulances.

Read more: Manitoba announces new EMS stations in Crystal City, Portage la Prairie

Stefanson and Gordon say the new ER will reduce wait times, provide more space for patients and improve experiences for patients and staff alike.

They say there were nearly 48,000 visits to the emergency department in 2019, and projections are for that to increase to 55,000 once the new ER is open in the fall of 2025.

Wait times at ERs on the rise

Tuesday’s announcement comes as the head of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has been warning of increasing wait times in ERs.

In a memo to staff last week, chief executive officer Mike Nader said hospitals are facing a spike in COVID-19 admissions combined with historic staff shortages due to sick time.

Read more: Wait times force 1 in 4 patients to leave Winnipeg’s largest ER without seeing doctor: Shared Health

Around 1 p.m. Monday, the shortest wait time in the city was five hours at the Health Sciences Centre Children’s Hospital, while the longest was more than seven hours at St. Boniface Hospital.

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The Progressive Conservative government has no plans to reintroduce restrictions, including indoor mask requirements, and is focusing instead on promoting vaccines.

Click to play video: 'WRHA CEO says Winnipeg’s emergency department wait times are “concerning”' WRHA CEO says Winnipeg’s emergency department wait times are “concerning”

WRHA CEO says Winnipeg’s emergency department wait times are “concerning”

“We take advice from public health when it comes to this and we should encourage as many Manitobans to get vaccinated, get their boosters,” Stefanson said.

“That is what is keeping people out of hospital and out of (intensive care units).”

Nader said efforts are being made to reduce wait times, including ensuring that people with less severe health concerns go to an urgent care centre or clinic instead of a hospital emergency department.

Read more: Manitoba reports another increase in new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 12 more deaths

“Our paramedics are actively assessing patients throughout Winnipeg and determining which site they could direct them to to receive the care,” he said.

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Manitoba hospitals have been facing high patient loads throughout much of the pandemic.

The number of patients in intensive care, including non-COVID-19 patients, dropped to 88 Tuesday from peaks of more than 100.

Click to play video: '‘It’s exceedingly frustrating’: Winnipeg doctors raise alarm over hospital waits, capacity' ‘It’s exceedingly frustrating’: Winnipeg doctors raise alarm over hospital waits, capacity

‘It’s exceedingly frustrating’: Winnipeg doctors raise alarm over hospital waits, capacity – Aug 17, 2021

The new total is still above the province’s normal intensive care capacity before the pandemic.

The Opposition New Democrats said the government failed to protect health capacity when it cut emergency departments at the three other Winnipeg hospitals in 2017.

Read more: Manitoba couple ‘overwhelmed and disillusioned’ by long wait times at Winnipeg hospital

“The biggest thing that has come back to hurt Manitobans, time and time again, is the fact that we lost beds when the Conservatives started to close emergency rooms in Winnipeg,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

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“Our system lost capacity, our system lost nurses, and now it’s the patients who are feeling the brunt of the impact.”

–With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Brittany Greenslade

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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