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Doctors' jobs deleted during ER overhaul

Some emergency room doctors have received notice that their positions will no longer exist as the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority goes through major restructuring.

A letter, alleged to be from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's head of emergency medicine Dr. Alecs Chochinov, says the various ER doctor positions are ending "because of the changes being made to the emergency department/urgent care centre in which they provide services."

The major health-care revamp, announced in April, will replace two of the city's emergency departments with urgent care centres. A third will be shut down altogether.

The letter said physicians losing their jobs were invited to apply to be considered for a different position "consistent with your qualifications and experience."

"It is anticipated there will be various positions at the community sites as well as at the tertiary sites," it said.

Physicians being impacted by the changes in positions are required to get notice 90 days before the transition, Dr. Brock Wright, chief medical officer of the WRHA, said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

Manitoba Health and WRHA are working with Doctors Manitoba to develop a process to support affected emergency and urgent care physicians, the email said.

"Physicians working in Urgent Care at Misericordia Health Centre are encouraged to work with the WRHA to explore opportunities to work in emergency departments or urgent care centres at other sites in Winnipeg, or in hospitals or other roles providing care to inpatients in Winnipeg hospitals," Wright said.

NDP leadership hopefuls slam PCs 

It's just another step in a chaotic plan, said former cabinet minister Steve Ashton, who is running for provincial NDP leadership.

"The chaos we are seeing in our community hospitals has got to end," he said.

"I want to send a clear message to Brian Pallister: 'You had no mandate to cut the ERs at three of our community hospitals, you had no plan, and quite frankly, right now the only thing we are seeing is chaos.'"

Steve Ashton

Steve Ashton says the restructuring could cause problems recruiting and retaining emergency room doctors in Manitoba. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Ashton joined a handful of supporters outside Concordia Hospital on Sunday afternoon to protest the major changes to health care in the province. When he learned about the letter to ER doctors, Ashton said he thought, "Are they crazy?"

"ER doctors are key parts of our medical system. It's often hard to recruit and maintain doctors," he said.

"What they are doing is sending a message to our ER doctors, 'You may be out of a job.' We run the risk, not only of chaos in the particular community hospitals, but in the system overall. We have to be very careful about maintaining doctors and recruiting doctors."

Ashton said the letter once again shows that the sweeping changes are bad for those that need health care and for frontline staff.

NDP MLA Wab Kinew, who is also vying to lead the party, also pointed the finger at Manitoba's premier. 

"Manitobans didn't vote for this," Kinew said in a statement. "No reasonable person could believe that cutting the number of doctors available to serve patients will shorten wait times or make our health system better.

"We need to renew our approach to keeping people healthy, but it doesn't start by this government backtracking on its responsibility to provide the best medical care it can to everyone in need right now, and that's exactly what Brian Pallister is doing," Kinew said. 

Kinew accused Pallister of "blundering forward with reckless cuts" without plans to make sure people in emergency situations get the help they need.

Last week, WRHA announced its plan to shift occupational therapy out of its hospitals and into private clinics and to close all but one of the city's QuickCare clinics.

"Brian Pallister lied in the election. He said there would be no health care cuts or layoffs of frontline workers," Ashton said.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen pointed CBC News to the WRHA for comment about the letter.


Published by CBC