'Highway medicine': Hundreds rally as Interlake deals with doctor shortage
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 2:15PM CST
Last Updated Friday, March 11, 2016 6:42PM CST
A lack of emergency room services in a Manitoba hospital spurred a rally of more than 300 people Friday.
The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority is dealing with a doctor shortage in Eriksdale, Man., located 142 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
While the ER remains open, patients face referrals to surrounding communities for emergency care when a doctor's not available.
In some cases, patients have to travel more than an hour to Stonewall to see an ER doctor.
Residents worry the shortage is putting people at risk.
Keith Lundale, a councillor with the R.M. of West Interlake and member of the West Interlake Health Advocacy Committee, addressed the crowd gathered outside the hospital at Friday's rally.
"Our health services are in crisis," said Lundale. "Our citizens lives are unnecessarily put at risk."
The IERHA said the there's an ongoing physician shortage.
Two physicians are currently working in the community; however, one of those doctors has resigned, which will soon leave the town with one doctor.
The IERHA said its recruitment efforts are continuing to bring doctors to the region.
When there's no doctor available, nurses in Eriksdale triage patients when they arrive to the ER. If physician care is needed, nurses can consult with an on-call doctor from Selkirk, located about 153 kilometres southeast of the town.
If the patient needs to see a doctor in person, they are directed or transferred to a hospital with an available doctor.
Residents said it could mean a trip to Ashern, Stonewall or Selkirk to see a physician – a one-way commute anywhere from a half hour to nearly two hours’ drive away.
"Highway medicine is the new hallway medicine," said Lundale. "We need more doctors in rural Manitoba."
The IERHA said it has no plans to close Eriksdale hospital.
In an emailed statement, Health Minister Sharon Blady said the province is committed to keeping Eriksdale hospital open.
Blady said the government will continue to work with communities on recruitment and retention of doctors.