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Portage la Prairie - Health Care Check Up - Public Meeting

April 24, I was in Portage la Prairie as part of our public consultations on the status of Health Care in Manitoba.  There is a major concern over Health Care in Manitoba at the moment, in part because the Pallister PCs have been making major changes and these are causing concern, uncertainty and low morale within the health care system.

In each of our public meetings as part of our effort to see where health care is at, we asked several questions.  1) What is working well?   This question is important because the starting place for improving our health care system is understanding what is working well.  Items that fall in this category need to be supported and indeed built upon and used as models of good care to improve the system. 2) What is not working?   This is an important question because it identifies where there are problems which need to be understood and addressed to improve the system. 3) Where do we need to invest? This is a critical question because it identifies areas which will need additional funding in order to correct the deficiency.  4) What is needed to improve or restore trust in Health Care in Manitoba.   We are asking this question because we have found too many people are losing or have lost trust in Manitoba's health care system.  5) What is your vision for health care in the Portage area 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

We had an good turn out for our meeting in Portage la Prairie.   A brief summary of the comments made at the meeting is provided below:  It is not exhaustive.  A more complete report will come when we have finished our public meetings;

What is working well?
- The Portage Hospital, though old, provides good care.  The hospital is well equipped, including a CT Scanner and telehealth, and Portage has excellent doctors and nurses at the hospital.  People are able to get quick access to emergency surgery quickly when needed.
- There is an exceptional Palliative Care team led by Dr. Woelk from Winkler.  
- The ambulance and paramedics service are excellent
- CancerCare Manitoba provides superb service
- It is possible to phone ahead to get an appointment at the Walk In Clinic 
- The physicians do a really good job of helping to recruit new physicians
- There is superb Ear Nose and Throat care
- Telehealth appointments, when set up, are on time.
- There are 2 personal care homes in Portage la Prairie

What is not working?
- The Southern Regional Health Authority is not seen as very effective.  As an example, it is not working to have home care in Portage la Prairie run from Steinbach.  People in Steinbach are not familiar with the geography in Portage la Prairie and a lot of time is wasted on poorly designed routes.
- The Portage Hospital is an old building.   There was a fire in 1976 and a new hospital was to be built but it never was.  The design is not optimum for today. 
- The Mental Health/Psychiatry ward is being used for offices instead of to provide mental and brain health care. 
- Home Care as operating at the moment has considerable issues.  It was described as a "mess".  A call for help to Steinbach, which runs the program, received the response "We can't do anything."  There is no accountability and acknowledgement of issues like saying "Sorry, we dropped the ball."  We were told of visits being set up and then no one coming.  There was no follow up.  It was a major problem.  It was so bad that someone who could easily have been looked after at home was put in Lions Prairie Manor, which we were told was even worse. 
- We were told of major issues at Lions Prairie Manor.  We were told of family members being told of an excellent plan for a parent, but then virtually nothing in the plan was delivered.  
- We were told that there was a concern there was not enough staff at the Lions Prairie Manor for the level of health care support required, and there was no accountability when commitments or promises were made and not kept.  Family members were finding they had to be spending a lot of time at the facility if they wanted their loved one to have even reasonable care, and had to be "fighting all the time to get the promised care."   We were told of constant problems including the frequent loss of the clothes of those in the Manor.
- The use of Agency nurses for personal care homes is not working. 
-  Agency nurses are not families with the people in the care homes and we were told it is a set up for poor care and for mistakes.  Agency nurses are very expensive.   The higher pay for agency nurses encourages regular nurses to take Agency shifts which sometimes leaves spaces open at the last minute which then have to be filled at high cost.  If true this is what is called a perverse incentive. 
- We were told that people working in the system fear coming forward to talk about problems that they will lose their jobs. 
- A three year wait for a colonoscopy is unacceptable. 

Where do we need to invest and improve our health care system? 
- Dental Care for Children needs to be fully covered under a Manitoba Dental Care plan. 
- There needs to be security present in Lions Prairie Manor.
- Communications related to elder care needs to be improved
- Training in relation to dementia care is needed for all who work with elders in Portage including all who are working at the two personal care homes. 
- Internet and telehealth are needed at Lions Prairie Manor and Douglas Campbell Lodge. 
- Improved standards and training and inspections are needed at personal care homes. 
- improvements are needed to home care to allow people to look after their loved ones at home. 

What needs to be done to improve or to restore trust in our health care system?  
- Better communication in varied aspects of health care is needed.   In a simple example, few in the audience knew of the telehealth system.  Such knowledge could help with improved use of the system. 
- Better accountability is needed
- Have the ownership of a person's health care record be vested in the individual. 

What should health care in south-western Manitoba look like in ten, twenty and thirty years.
- There needs to be a shift in focus so that more emphasis is put on keeping people healthy instead of the primary focus being on addressing sickness.  - - There needs to be a much better ability to look after loved ones at home. 
- A Senior Care navigator to help families with elder care is needed. 
- Consideration for a new hospital, or a redesign needs to be undertaken. 
- More health care should be done locally - with advances in technology

If you have further comments, you can make a comment below or email me at jon.gerrard@leg.gov.mb.ca or fill out our ongoing health care survey at this link - Health Care Survey  

Summaries of earlier public health meetings are to be found by clicking on the name of the community:

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